Campbell Set For Legends Day
Published: September 2, 2015 10:09 am ET
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The title of legend has never been thrown around lightly. To become a legend requires great success, recognition at the highest level and admiration from your peers.
In the world of harness racing, a select group of individuals have earned the right to be considered legendary and every few years a group of these extraordinary horsemen gather in Central Huron, Ontario.
Icons of the sport have returned every other year since 2001 to Clinton Raceway for Legends Day.
John Campbell, a man known as 'Mr. Harness Racing' and forever etched in racing lore, has been a part of every Legends Day and will be back once again this year.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Campbell said. “It really shows the enthusiasm that people have for harness racing. For us as participants it’s a chance to go back and the camaraderie is great, seeing people you haven’t seen in a few times, a lot of these people I see them every other year at Clinton.”
Campbell, a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, continues to be amazed by the energy from the racing fans that show up every other year for this special day. Many of the fans take the time to share their favourite memories with the legends.
“It’s very humbling,” said Campbell. “It feels great that people have followed my career and remember races that have stood out that I’ve been successful in. It’s a little nostalgic for sure, but certainly in a good way and just nothing but great memories of every Legends Day.”
The return to a small-community racetrack offers Campbell the opportunity to reflect on his roots growing up in the sport. The Hall of Famer has over 10,000 driving victories, $297 million in earnings and a victory in every major race, but it was small-community tracks where his legendary career began.
“Western Fair was my first drives, but I spent quite a bit of time at Dresden, Goderich and Woodstock,” recalls Campbell. “So it was certainly a stepping stone for me and it does bring me back to those roots.
“It brings it back to an appreciation of where I started and there are people starting out there right now that are going to go on to bigger and better things from Clinton and places like that.”
Legends Day offers fans the opportunity to get autographs, photos and share stories with harness racing icons. The chance to rub shoulders with the elite does not present itself every day, but rarer is the chance to watch a full field of Hall of Famers compete in a race.
“I spoke about the camaraderie among the Hall of Famers, but all that goes out the window when we turn in behind the gate,” laughed Campbell, who had his three-race win streak in the Legends Day Trot snapped in 2013. “Everybody wants to win it, there is no question about that.”
A strong crowd is expected to turnout Sunday, September 6 for the eighth edition of Legends Day. Campbell is looking forward to another special day and recognizes the importance of the event to not only Clinton, but also the sport.
“It’s really a special treat for myself and I know the other Hall of Famers to participate in it. It’s just a great day and I think it’s a great day for the industry.”
Legends Day is a special event circled on calendars, a must-visit for the biggest harness racing fan and a reminder of the humble roots from which the sport began.
The enthusiasm at Clinton Raceway for Legends Day is impressive and Campbell expects to get a workout with the Sharpie.
“When we sign autographs, the line just never stops.”
Clinton Raceway's Legends Day is a biennial fundraiser for the Clinton Public Hospital Foundation. The track is hosting an online auction to coincide with Legends Day, and the online auction is now live.
Guests can visit legendsdayauction.com to bid on a great selection of items. The auction will remain open through Friday, September 4 and items can be picked up at the event in Clinton on Sunday, September 6.
(with files from WEG/Clinton)