by Frank Carulli
July 4, 2017
John Campbell said he is looking forward to the next chapter in his harness racing career. Problem is, there's little room left to build upon his legend.
Campbell, 62, began his new role as President and CEO of the Hambletonian Society Saturday. But the sport's most dominant driver ever had business to take care of Friday night and, to no one's surprise, the Hall of Famer went out a big winner.
Campbell guided trotters Muscle Hill and Muscle Diamond to victory in the final two pari-mutuel races of his career, much to the delight of family, friends and fans who packed the Meadowlands to take part in the celebration.
Campbell signed autographs and memorabilia, posed for pictures, watched a video tribute and, oh yes, enjoyed a piece of his retirement cake at the track where he dominated for the better part of five decades. Those who competed against Campbell on Friday came to the winners' circle to shake hands with the man many of them idolized.
"This place has a special place in my heart," Campbell said in a post-race interview. "To go out like this is just incredible. It couldn't have been a better night."
Campbell, who burst onto the Meadowlands scene in the late 1970s, retired with 10,667 victories, good for ninth all-time.
But when the big money was on the line, Campbell was at his best, winning 48 Breeders Crown races, a record six Hambletonians, seven Meadowlands Pace trophies and six North America Cups. He won 23 races worth at least $1 million and a record $300 million overall.
He was named North America's Driver of the Year in 1983, 1988 and 1990 and won Breeders Crowns races in his 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.
He guided Mack Lobell, Artsplace, Cam's Card Shark, Real Desire, Glidemaster and Rock N Roll Heaven to U.S. Horse of the Year honors.
"John Campbell is truly the Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Wayne Gretzky of harness racing all wrapped into one," said Meadowlands GM Jason Settlemoir. "Nobody has revolutionized our sport more or, more importantly, been a better ambassador and promoter of our industry."