Jim Campbell, the epitome of class, thanks others for Hall of Fame honor

by Dave Briggs

It’s not the least bit surprising that the first thing Jim Campbell does is thank and credit others for his berth in the Harness Racing Living Hall of Fame. Class and integrity have been integral parts of the trainer’s career from the beginning, along with equal doses of talent and work ethic.

“I’m so thankful for all the grooms and second trainers and owners and drivers and everybody that along the way helped me to get to this special moment,” Campbell said Saturday morning (July 6) a few hours before leaving New Jersey for Goshen, NY where tonight (July 7) he will be officially enshrined in the Hall of Fame along with fellow trainer Eddie Lohmeyer and owner David McDuffee.

“It’s certainly not anything that I did on my own. I had lots of help along the way, especially my dad [Jack] and my brother [John]. I’m very blessed to have had two people like dad and John in my life to direct me not just with horses but life in general. My wife and I are going to be married 30 years this year and I thank her for all her support and our son James. Just my whole family’s been behind me my whole career through the ups and downs. My family’s always been there.”

A huge number of them will be on hand tonight, many flying in from Jim’s native Ontario. When reached, Jim said more than 25 of them were scheduled to gather in Goshen on Saturday evening for a celebratory meal organized by John.

Jim, 62, truly hails from a Hall of Fame family, both literally and figuratively.

His grandfather, Dunc Campbell, was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1983. John, one of the world’s greatest drivers, was inducted into the Canadian Hall in 1987 and the Living Hall of Fame in Goshen in 1991.

Now comes Jim’s turn.

Sadly, Jack is no longer here to witness Jim’s induction. He died in 2012.

Jim was especially close with his father.

“He would be very proud to say that his two boys got into the Hall of Fame,” Jim said of Jack. “But, you know, he was always proud of us no matter what we did. He was so supportive [of me], especially being younger and getting going [in the industry]. I always said dad was the best teacher a kid could ask for to learn about training horses because his idea was to get you out there and get you to do it so that when you made a mistake you learned from it. Overall, he just would be so proud to say his two boys are in the Hall of Fame.”

John previously told HRU that Jim developed his work ethic from their grandfather.

“I spent a lot of time with my grandfather, but the work ethic part didn’t wear off because I was just looking to do it easier and get out of work,” John said. “Jim, even as a kid, he never ran out of a time where he wouldn’t work.”

Jim said his, “grandpa was a hard worker his whole life. He would just be proud that I worked hard over the years. A lot of times, if I had a really long day, I would think of my grandfather because work was all he knew. He was the hardest working man I think I’ve ever met.”

Lifetime, Jim ranks 13th among trainer earnings with over $54 million. The trainer has seen his stable eclipse $1 million in earnings every year dating back to 2008 and 24 times in his career. Of those, in 13 years he passed $2 million.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic related to Jim is that he has accomplished such lofty numbers while still maintaining a reasonably-sized barn. Also noteworthy is the breadth of his work. He has succeeded with pacers and trotters as well as with young horses and old. His wins have come on small tracks and large, and his talent to bring along a horse to its peak is uncanny.

He has conditioned two Hambletonian champions — Tagliabue (1995) and Cool Papa Bell (2022). The same day Cool Papa Bell won the Hambletonian, Jim also won the Hambletonian Oaks with Fashion Schooner, making him only the third trainer in history to win the Hambletonian and Oaks the same day. He posted a UTRS of .428 that year and won was voted the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Trainer of the Year. It helped cement Jim as a Hall of Famer.

Long a veteran of the New Jersey racing scene, one of Jim’s first big horses came in 1987 with Run The Table for the Farber family that also owned Cool Papa Bell. Run The Table would eventually go on to stallion duty in Canada and was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Jim has won six Breeders Crowns lifetime, many as the long-time trainer for Hall of Fame owner Jules Siegel and his late wife, Arlene, the operators of Fashion Farms.

Beyond Tagliabue and Cool Papa Bell, award-winners trained by Jim include Galleria, Broadway Hall, Broadway Schooner (his other Oaks champion), Broadway Donna and Real Cool Sam.

“Just to sum it up, I feel very, very blessed and thankful for all the great people that have come into my life throughout my career in our industry,” Jim said.