A look at his early days. Also, some hard-to-believe history.
by Bob Heyden
John Campbell celebrated his 67th birthday on Friday (April 8).
Let’s take a look at some of his early days.
Campbell’s first New Jersey free-for-all type was To Ri Johnny (circa 1980), a son of the new world setter from 1955 Adios Harry. That was the same year Campbell was born, meaning that in 1980, at age 25, Campbell was four years younger than To Ri Johnny’s sire.
In 1980, Campbell won the very first New Jersey Classic with Bold Rush ($4.20).
The 12-horse field was laden with Hall Of Famers already in the Hall or heading there:
1st — Campbell (1990 Hall of Famer) with Bold Rush.
2nd — Herve Filion (1975 Hall of Famer) with Still The One.
4th — Billy Haughton (1968 Hall of Famer) with H H Serene.
5th — Buddy Gilmour (1989 Hall of Famer) with Action News.
6th — Bill O’Donnell (1990 Hall of Famer) with Rathmore.
9th — Stanley Dancer (1969 Hall of Famer) with Lester H.
11th — Jim Doherty (2002 Hall of Famer) with Kreizers Yamis
CAMPBELL AND ROYCE
Campbell’s first divisional winner — Royce in 1981— was a son of Albatross who made 15 of his first 16 starts that year at the Meadowlands — three times winning in a personal best of 1:53.4. He was voted champion pacing horse. By then, Campbell was a two-time leading Meadowlands driver — nationally, as well.
FIRST SEVEN-FIGURE TRIUMPH
In 1982, Campbell won his first million-dollar race with Hilarion for Jerry Silverman. Since Bill O’Donnell had driven Hilarion in the elim, Campbell won his first Meadowlands Pace final before he ever won an elim.
It was 1984 when Campbell won the first of a record four straight Sweethearts:
1984 — Armbro Dazzler
1985 — Follow My Star
1986 — Nadia Lobell
1987 — So Cozy
WHO WILL CATCH CAMPBELL FIRST, IF ANYONE?
Campbell retired in 2017 with earnings of $299.6 million.
Will it be Dave Miller ($261.7 million), Tim Tetrick ($242.3 million) or trainer Ron Burke ($275 million plus entering April 2022) that catches Campbell first?
THOSE ARE THE BREAKS
On Oct. 22, 1988 at Freehold, Campbell’s horse Kassa Branca made a break in the New Jersey Futurity that triggered something you see only once a decade or so — if that. Two $300 to show horses in the same race. Beta Bob $41.20 $11.40 $312.40 and Nukes Image $7.00 $113.00 and the show finisher Armbro Haggert $340.80 were 1-2-3 with Jack Moiseyev, Ron Waples and Paul MacDonell.
One Freehold patron bet $150,000 to show on Kassa Branca and one Garden State Park simulcast bettor another $50,000.
YOU JUST NEVER KNOW
In April of 2004, 12 experts were polled and asked in a national magazine to rate the 10 best 3-year-olds. Six did the pacers, six the trotters. The name Windsongs Legacy did not appear on any top 10 list.
The names Timesareachanging and Western Terror also were not mentioned.
IS THIS REAL?
In May of 1981, 25-year-old Mark O’Mara from Adrian, MI, won back-to-back races at Maywood Park with a full-brother and sister, one-fifth-of-a-second apart for the same connections.
G T Bullet, a sophomore colt by G T Skipper out of Madam Questor in 2:00.4.
G T MELODY, a 4-year-old mare by G T Skipper out of Madam Questor in 2:01.
The owners of both were O’Mara, Robert Leiter and Benjamin Painter.
Oh, and both started from extreme outside posts, too.