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Campbell Ready For Elitlopp

Published: May 26, 2017 3:56 pm ET

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As John Campbell prepared to head to Sweden for his final Elitlopp, he admittedly knew little about the horse he is driving in Sunday’s elite invitational for older trotters. But he did know the most important thing.

“The only thing I know is that he’s inexperienced for this level of competition, but he does have a lot of speed and ability,” Campbell said about lightly raced five-year-old Tjacko Zaz. “He’s got the fastest race time in Sweden this year. As a driver, that’s what you’re looking for, something that can go fast. And he definitely can. I’ll certainly get a lot more information from the trainer when I get there.”

Tjacko Zaz has raced only once this year, winning in 1:51.4 (mile rate on a five-eighths-mile track). The horse is a son of U.S. stallion Crazed out of the Angus Hall mare Kinoras Zaz. He is trained by Timo Nurmos and will start from post four in the first of Sunday’s two Elitlopp eliminations at Stockholm’s Solvalla Raceway. The top four finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the final.

Campbell, who will hang up his colours in July to take over the role of Hambletonian Society president and CEO from the retiring Tom Charters, won the 1988 Elitlopp with Mack Lobell. Campbell last competed in the event in 1996, winning an elimination with Triple T Storm and finishing fifth in the final.

Three years ago, Campbell returned to Solvalla for a legends race, and was reunited with Mack Lobell for a special ceremony at the racetrack.

In addition to Sunday’s Elitlopp, Campbell will drive in six other races that day at Solvalla.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Campbell said. “It’s obviously my last time driving in Sweden, so there’s that. Any time you get to go to the Elitlopp it’s special. And they’ve treated (my wife) Paula and I so well every time we’ve gone to Sweden that you just can’t help but look forward to it. They’ve treated us extremely well over the years.”

Campbell has won 10,659 races in his Hall of Fame career and earned a record $299.71 million (U.S.) in purses. Campbell’s win with Mack Lobell in the Elitlopp ranks among his greatest memories.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the crowd, the fans, just how electric and enthusiastic they are,” Campbell said. “It’s more than a horse race, it’s a sporting event.

“Winning it with Mack, he’s the only four-year-old to have won it, which is something that is very special in my career. Just the fact Mack did that, I look back in almost astonishment that he did. It’s one of my best memories.”
Campbell can recall all the details from the day.

“That one is easy to remember, both heats,” Campbell said. “He had an outside post (seven) in the first race, and they were trotting out of there a hundred miles an hour, so I just took him off the gate. They go so slow the middle half, and when they started to slow down Mack really got on the bit, and I wasn’t going to be able to keep him in where I wanted. I flipped him three-wide (prior to the second turn) and he made the front, and won easily from there.

“I remember one of the Swedish journalists said ‘All we ever heard about was how fast Mack Lobell could leave and he didn’t leave at all.’ I said, ‘Well, you just stick around for this second heat.’ And he just went right down the road and won. He left the gate really hard the second heat, and he had to because there was so much early speed. Once he got control of the race, he did everything else on his own from there.”

This year, French star Bold Eagle is the favourite to win the Elitlopp. Bold Eagle is in the first elimination, with Campbell and Tjacko Zaz, and will start from post five.

The elimination also includes U.S. representative Resolve, who will leave from post eight with trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt, as well as several other horses that launched their careers in the States: DDs Hitman, Delicious, and Cruzado Dela Noche.

Online oddsmakers have Bold Eagle as the favourite in the elimination, followed by Delicious, Resolve and DDs Hitman.

Returning Elitlopp champion Nuncio, whom Campbell drove during a multiple-stakes-winning career in the U.S., is a slight favorite in Sunday’s second elimination. Up And Quick and formerly U.S.-based Propulsion also are receiving strong consideration in the division.

Bold Eagle is the favorite to win the final, followed by Delicious, Nuncio, Resolve, Propulsion, and Up And Quick.

Campbell might have a longshot in the Elitlopp, but he is thankful for the opportunity to drive in the event and focused on the task at hand.

“Before the race, you’re going to take a look around and take it all in, for sure,” Campbell said. “Once you get in the post parade, you’re not soaking in anything. You’re concentrating on the race. It’s a totally different mindset once you go to the post parade.

“Just to have a horse in the Elitlopp this year is really special because I didn’t expect it,” he continued. “When I spoke to them about going over, I was going to drive in some other races and make some appearances, so this is a bonus getting into the Elitlopp.”


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.


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