Not even shovelling fresh Newfoundland snow in the middle of a harsh Canadian winter could take the smile off Brad Forward's face. That's exactly what the controversial harness racing driver was doing when contacted by Harnesslink today (Thursday January 12).
In fact for more than a year Forward has been working for his family's contracting business undertaking as he put it: "not what I want to be doing with my life".
But Forward had every reason to be happy. Four night's earlier (Saturday) he received a phone call from his lawyer, Michael Crystal, saying he was free to drive horses again.
Up until September 2010, Forward was one of Canada's best reinsmen. He had won 4,013 races and more than $24 million in lifetime purses. He also represented his country at the World Driving Championships in Norway in 2009.
But in the winter of 2010 Forward's life went pear-shaped. Everything he loved, he lost because of an alleged offence laid against him of conspiring to affect the outcome of races at Windsor Raceway in Ontario.
Forward was allegedly the minor player when three Ontario horsemen were charged by the Ontario Racing Commission. Forward copped a five year suspension and a $5,000.
Gene Piroski, received a 10 year holiday and a fine of $100,000, while Kevin Wallis got 12 years and fine of $100,000
But following a recent appeals hearing Forward, now aged 40, was permitted to drive again.
"I half expected to win the appeal, not only because I knew I was innocent, but because I knew my counsel had presented a very strong case.
"I can't believe I was suspended in the first place and now I'm still stunned yet just so happy I can drive again. It's a great feeling alright. I was born to drive and it's going to be hard to get this smile off my face.
"I've been through a hell of a lot trying to clear my name and now that it has been achieved I just want to drive winners again. It's what I do best. I don't enjoy shovelling snow I can tell you that much!" Forward said.
Asked if he thought he should ever have been charged in the first place, Forward replied:
"I don't want to talk to you about the case. That's for my lawyer to talk about. I just want to tell you how happy I am to be able to pursue my career again. I've been driving since the 1980s and I can't wait to get back in the sulky again."
Forward said he would relocate from Newfoundland back to Ontario within the next two weeks. Even though he's trained 40 winners in his career he insists he will be strictly a catch-driver.
"I'm keen to drive at all the tracks in Ontario. I need people to support and believe in me. I have been proven innocent and I want owners and trainers to remember what I can do on the racetrack," Forward said.
Forward isn't just a good reinsman - he's a very good one!
Apart from representing his country he has also driven in a lot of big races in Canada and has won Sires Stakes events.
His best year was in 2006 when he won 602 races and $43.6 million. In fact he's won a million dollars every year since 2002.
He had his last drive at Mohawk on August 31 2010 when finishing second with Ideal Gift. His three previous races at Dresden Raceway on August 29 resulted in three wins with Cinful Kisses, Red Granger, and Man Camp.
"I just want to get my racing career back on track again. The low-point of my career is now behind me and driving in Norway has so far been my career highlight.
"I want to experience more happiness in harness racing. I've had more than my fair share of negativity and being down," Forward said.
For the record the Ontario Racing Commission's Investigations Unit - including members of the OPP Illegal Gambling Unit seconded to the ORC - teamed with the Michigan State Police (MSP)and the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) in the investigation of "races of interest" at Michigan race tracks and Windsor Raceway.
The management of Windsor Raceway cooperated and assisted fully in the investigation and was not part of this action.
The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA), the federal agency responsible for supervising licensed pari-mutuel betting systems in Canada, also assisted in the investigation. The collaborative effort examined races from January 1, 2008 to March 31, 2010.
by Duane RANGER (editor)
Brad Forward's proudest moment in harness racing - Being presented with his Canadian colours which he wore at the 2009 World Driving Championships in Norway: