Hollywood’s Hits: Celebrating John Campbell’s birthday weekend

by Bob Heyden

John Campbell turned 62 on Saturday (April 8). Let’s take a closer look at some of his career highlights.

He won the first New Jersey Classic in 1980 with Bold Rush. The $300,000 race was the biggest career win to that point in only Campbell’s second full season at the Meadowlands. He was 25.

He won seven straight drives on Feb. 3, 1983 at the Meadowlands during a driving rainstorm. Only two of the horses were favorites. His eighth scheduled drive — the aptly-named Rain In My Face — was scratched and Campbell finished second in the ninth race.

He won eight races on a single card at Freehold in October, 1986 — a track record that still stands.

On April 9, 1983, a day after his 28th birthday, Campbell beat Cam Fella at Freehold with Jefs Eternity. It was the only female horse ever beat the “Pacing Machine”. Plus, since Jefs Eternity also owned decisions over the 1981 HOY Fan Hanover, she thus became the only horse in the modern era to defeat consecutive Horses Of The Year — one male and one female.

Campbell won his fifth Hambletonian with Muscles Yankee in 1998 and his record sixth Hambletonian in record time (1:51.1) with Glidemaster in 2006.

The first five drivers in the sport’s history to reach $50 million were all Canadian born: Herve Filion, Campbell, Ron Waples, Bill O’Donnell and Mike Lachance.

Twice a winless horse for the year at age three still managed to be second in the Meadowlands Pace. At Point Blank in 1997 and Odds On Equuleus in 2013 both were driven by Campbell.

From 1986-1990, Campbell drove in all 16 million-dollar races held.

Only Campbell has gotten money with three fillies in the Meadowlands Hambletonian history: 1985 — 3rd with Britelite Lobell; 1989 — 3rd with Peace Corps and 1992 — 4th with favored Armbro Keepsake.

Sixteen times Campbell has won the Meadowlands driving title and 16 times he has won the national earnings title.

Campbell is perhaps best known for Mack Lobell and O’Donnell is perhaps best known for Nihilator. Neither drove their horse in his first eight starts. (O’Donnell and Tommy Haughton drove Nihilator; O’Donnell drove Mack Lobell).

Campbell was involved in a dead heat in a Triple Crown race in 2004 when he tied with Timesareachanging (Ron Pierce) while driving Western Terror in the Cane Pace at Freehold.

Campbell won four straight Sweethearts from 1984-1987 and four straight North America Cups from 1994-1997.

Campbell’s first million-dollar drive came in the 1980 Woodrow Wilson with Age Of Slapstick, the favorite that finished fifth in a race won by Land Grant. Age Of Slapstick finished fourth in the 1981 Meadowlands Pace won by Conquered.

Campbell’s 10,000th career win got lost in the spotlight of Somebeachsomewhere and Art Official in July 2008. Share The Delight won his elim and it was #10,000 for Campbell, who finished third in the epic final.

Did you know…

… that Campbell’s first Hambletonian drive came in the same year as Stanley Dancer’s last Hambletonian win? Campbell won his first assignment in the first heat with Joie De Vie and Dancer won the other two with Duenna, the first female to win the Hambletonian in New Jersey. It was also the sport’s first million-dollar trotting event ($1,080,000).

Track fact

The first ‘catch-driver’ to ever win a million-dollar race was John Campbell in 1982 with Hilarion. But it took a pair of good strokes of fortune for this to happen. Campbell did not qualify for the final as his own colt, Merger, came up short. O’Donnell qualified two — Rompin Home and Hilarion. The “Magic Man’ chose Rompin Home (fifth) and the rest is history.