Farber reflects on magical ride with Cool Papa Bell

Nearly six months after winning the Hambletonian, the owner is still ecstatic about the victory that helped propel his horse to sophomore trotting colt of the year honors and his conditioner, Jim Campbell, to the Trainer of the Year award.

by Brett Sturman

Buoyed by an historic upset in the Hambletonian, the dream season for owner Scott Farber continued when it was announced at the end of December that his Cool Papa Bell is the Dan Patch winner for 3-year-old male trotters; an award that will be formally accepted in three weeks.

Owned by Farber’s Runthetable Stables, Cool Papa Bell has taken his connections on an emotional ride over this past season, and it’s one that Farber is still in the midst of.

“I’ve been riding a high since the Hambletonian, and it’s been an unbelievable experience – I still haven’t come down yet,” said Farber. “And, I have no desire to come down yet, it’s a once in a lifetime thing.”

Referencing, in part, the number of Hambletonians conducted in its history, Farber said, “There’s only 97 of us and when you think of how long people have been racing harness horses even going back to racing down the streets of cities – to win a race like the Hambletonian with that prestige is just a tremendous honor.”

Selected by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) as the top 3-year-old male trotter, Cool Papa Bell bested his closest rival in voting, Breeders Crown elimination and final winner King Of The North, by about a 2-to-1 margin.

“I’m really happy that the writers took into consideration the entire season because I truly think that from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, he was the best 3-year-old out there,” said Farber. “I do think there was some cause for concern towards the end of the year that as he was burdened continually with very bad post positions that some other horses kind of came back to him a little bit. Now, I’m not so sure that anyone would have beaten King Of The North in the Breeders Crown final no matter what post position they had, but having to go four races in a row of posts 9, 9, 8 and 9 obviously made things more difficult.”

In a sense, Cool Papa Bell achieving divisional honors gave the champion gelding some validation that he didn’t always get throughout the racing season. Just two races removed from his Hambletonian win at odds of over 50-1, Cool Papa Bell was once again a double-digit longshot – and in a state-bred restricted event no less – in the New York Sires Stakes Final at Tioga. It was a race that once again, he won.

“I’ll take it a step further,” said Farber, “[Trainer] Jimmy [Campbell] and I had to scramble to find drivers for him in a number of these races, even after he won the Hambo. I’ll tell you; I completely understand that for drivers. This is a business. But I think on some levels he didn’t always get the respect he deserved. And I knew what he was accomplishing wasn’t a fluke.

“Even before it all fell into place in the Hambo, I really do have to give Brian Sears a lot of credit. I know he had to go with Joviality (in the Hambo final), but Brian was a huge part of this horse’s development. And I can’t emphasize that enough. He drove all the way down to Harrah’s Philadelphia to go with us in just an overnight race, which is uncommon for Brian, and I’m really thankful for the guidance of him working with Jim in the development of the horse, he was very instrumental.”

In addition to Sears and of course trainer and decades-long friend Jim Campbell, who was voted Trainer of the Year, Farber notes the total team effort expands to a much larger circle of individuals.

“The horse has to go out there and do it. There’s no doubt about it. But the humans that helped him get there, so many people had a part in it,” said Farber. “Tim Tetrick and Scott Zeron both had hands in it. And I felt bad for Scott because he’s who we were going with in the Hambletonian and then he got into that accident prior to it. I have full faith in Scott Zeron. Then that accident happens and now we’re scrambling again. And when you think of how all these different pieces fell into place, next thing you know it’s Todd McCarthy getting on and giving the best drive I’ve ever seen. I think you’d have to look far and wide to find a better drive than what Todd McCarthy gave him in the Hambletonian.

“Another person who I’m happy for is Vito Cucci, who is the breeder (Belmar Racing & Breeding). I share this with him because I’m a breeder also (Farber’s Runthetable Stables was nominated in 2020 by the USHWA for Breeder of the Year), and I reached out to Vito because I know how difficult it can be for a small breeder just to get to a race like this, much less win it. We share a lot of similarities and thoughts on the business as far as breeding goes and he’s another that really is part of this and that shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Perhaps fate had been smiling on Cool Papa Bell from the start. The horse marked the first time that Farber had ever gone to six figures for a yearling when he purchased what would become Cool Papa Bell out of the 2020 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for $100,000.

“It really is unbelievable how it all came together, and I guess I reflect more on that than anything else,” said Farber. “I just feel like it was all meant to be. I can’t explain it – nothing in my wildest dreams, but I’m going to continue to enjoy it. I want to be able to stretch out the races in his career for as long as I can, I really enjoy watching him race.”