By Bill Finley
Photo: Reve Royale @ The Meadowlands (Lisa Photo)
Hall of Fame driver John Campbell broke his wrist in a spill during baby races yesterday at the Meadowlands. Campbell sat out last night’s races at the Meadowlands and will also pass on his drives tonight. However, he told Harness Racing Update last night that he hopes to drive next weekend.
“The timing of this could not have been worse,” he said. “It’s eight days before the Hambletonian and that’s obviously not a day I want to miss. ”
The accident occurred during the fifth race on the card of qualifiers. Campbell was driving Drazzmatazz, who took the early lead but started to tire and drop back on the field on the far turn. Driving Usher, Jimmy Takter found himself right on Campbell’s heels as Drazzmatazz was coming to a near stop. Takter and Campbell locked wheels and Campbell went down.
The spill came amidst what has been one of Campbell’s best years in quite a while. With 116 wins on the year, he has already surpassed his 2014 total, when he had 115 victories. Campbell’s drives have earned $2,973,756 on the year, much of it coming with JL Cruze, who is regarded as the top trotter in the sport.
This will be the second time within the last two years that Campbell has been sidelined. In February, 2014, he broke his collarbone when ice skating with his grandson. He also suffered a broken knee and shoulder in a 2011 spill at Chester.
“Am I snake bit? It doesn’t do me any good to look at things that way,” he said.
His latest mishap doesn’t figure to cost him much time, but it could be a big blow if he misses Hambletonian Day. Campbell, 60, is scheduled to drive Muscle Diamond in the Hambletonian. He said that he wasn’t in any pain yesterday and that break was about as about as mild as a fractured bone can get. His plan is to train horses next week and the re-evaluate his status.
“If it were the middle of winter I’d be fine taking some time off,” he said. “But this is different and I’m hoping this won’t stand in the way of my driving next weekend. I’ll just see how I feel and go from there.”
While Muscle Diamond is an outsider in the Hambletonian, Campbell possibly could drive a live contender in the Hambletonian Oaks in Wild Honey. She will compete tonight in the elims for the Hambletonian Oaks. Takter is her trainer and said yesterday he has not yet enlisted a driver to take over for Campbell tonight, but mentioned he might handle the driving chores himself. Campbell said he did not speak to Takter yesterday and, therefore, cannot be certain that he will get the drive on Hambo Day of he is available.
Campbell was also scheduled to drive Melady’s Monet for trainer Kevin McDermott in tonight’s TVG series. McDermott said Corey Callahan will get the assignment tonight and that Jason Bartlett will be given the drive on Hambletonian Day in the Cashman.
“You can’t help but feel bad for John,” McDermott said. “He’s had such bad luck lately and he was having a huge year. I wish him well.”
Campbell was also listed to drive Doo Wop Hanover in the TVG leg for pacers tonight Campbell was down for eight drives Friday night, including Gifted Lady in a Jim Doherty Memorial 2-year-old filly trot elims. He also had a drives in all three of the elims for the Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old colt trotters.