Jim Campbell always will be associated with last year’s Hambletonian Day, but what happened over the remaining days on the calendar ensured he will also be remembered for his stable’s season beyond that one afternoon.
A month ago, Campbell was named the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s 2022 Trainer of the Year. At the forefront of his accomplishments was winning the Hambletonian with Cool Papa Bell and Hambletonian Oaks with Fashion Schooner on Aug. 6 at The Meadowlands, making him only the third trainer in history to capture both trotting classics in the same year.
But the depth of Campbell’s stable is what stood out over the rest of the campaign. From a group that numbered 14 for most of the summer, he had 12 horses win either Grand Circuit or state-restricted stakes (or both). Overall, his horses won 49 of 171 races (28 per cent) and hit the board a total of 100 times (58 per cent). Campbell’s .428 universal rating was the best of his career and second among Grand Circuit regulars in 2022.
Among trainers in the top 50 in purses in North America, Campbell ranked 49th in starts but 18th in earnings, with $2.88 million USD, and his average earnings of $16,878 was best among the group.
“I’m very thankful for the year I had and I’m very honoured to get [the Trainer of the Year] award,” said Campbell. “It’s my first time and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. They’re hard to come by. I’m proud of my whole team that worked together and all the owners that supported me to be able to do this.
“A lot of things kind of worked in our favour. It was just an amazing year and I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life too.”
Cool Papa Bell will receive the 2022 Dan Patch Award for best three-year-old male trotter next month at the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s banquet, presented by Caesars Entertainment, in Orlando, Florida. Cool Papa Bell won the Hambletonian at record odds of 52-1 and led all three-year-old male trotters in purses with $893,025 USD.
In addition to capturing the Hambo, Cool Papa Bell counted the New York Sire Stakes final and Phil Langley Memorial among his six victories in 14 starts. He hit the board a total of 10 times for owner Runthetable Stables.
Fashion Schooner overcame post 10 to win the Hambletonian Oaks, one of eight victories for the three-year-old filly trotter last season. Her other triumphs included the Moni Maker Stakes (where stablemate Misswalner Fashion was second), a division of the Delvin Miller Memorial and the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship. She earned $684,937 USD for breeder/owner Fashion Farms.
Misswalner Fashion added to Campbell’s Hambletonian Day fun, winning the Continentalvictory from post 10 at odds of 21-1.
“To get three winners from two 10 holes and a 50-1 shot in the Hambletonian, that was an unbelievable day,” said Campbell, who previously won the Hambletonian with Tagliabue (driven by his brother John) in 1995 and the Hambletonian Oaks with Broadway Schooner (the mom of Fashion Schooner) in 2009.
“The horses earned it. For my part, there was a lot of luck involved. Racing is a funny thing. I’ve gone up [to The Meadowlands] many times thinking I’m going to have a really good night and I don’t. The way I approach it anymore, I just prepare them the best I can. It doesn’t matter if you’re the favourite or anything like that, you still have to contend with good or bad racing luck and the way trips go and everything like that.”
Other stakes winners for Campbell were Pennsylvania Sire Stakes two-year-old male trotting champ Once In A Lifetime, multiple Miss Versatility Series division winner Next Level Stuff, Stride The Hill, Wild Bill Kelso, Fashion Annie, Design Fashion, Jo Pas Warrior, Grand Fashion and Lie In Wait.
Especially pleasing to Campbell was being able to deliver wins for his small group of owners: Paul Emposimato, Scott Farber, Jules Siegel and John Floren. Most of them have been with Campbell for decades.
“Every owner in their own right had a very good year,” said Campbell. “It’s very satisfying. They’re great people to work for and I’m very blessed to have them to own horses in my stable.
“And I can’t thank my crew enough. They’re the ones doing the hard work behind the scenes.”
Campbell enters 2023 with a stable of 28 horses, including 16 two-year-olds. Among his older returnees are Cool Papa Bell, Fashion Schooner, Misswalner Fashion, Jo Pas Warrior and Take All Comers, who was stakes placed and earned nearly $200,000 last year.
Even with that strong nucleus coming back, Campbell knows it is impossible to say what this season holds in store.
“If you were having this conversation with me a year ago at this time, I would have no idea I was going to win the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks on the same day and have the year that I had,” said Campbell. “We had some horses going into it that I thought could have decent years, but the way everything turned out was way more than I expected.
“This business is the worst business to try to make predictions and forecast because there are so many unknowns. You just worry about your own stable, you train them the way you think they should be trained and then you let the racing decide who’s the best and what kind of year it’s going to be.”