For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Open Letter to John Campbell


I read in the latest edition of Harness Racing Update that you have not made up your mind if you are going to return to the sulky or retire after your latest injury in the accident at Chester Downs this past weekend.  While the ultimate decision is up to you and your family, allow me to offer my opinion.

It is time to retire.

No, it's not that you can't return to the racing wars, I am sure you can and still have a good career.  The question is why do you want to this to yourself?  Yes, I understand how once you get racing in your blood it stays with you.  I know a man of your integrity is important to harness racing, but it is time to think about what is good for John Campbell and your family.

As you know, as a driver it is not a question of if you will get into a racing accident; it is a question of when.  So far you have been able to bounce back from your injuries.  How many times are you going to dip into the well before it comes up empty, especially now that horses are racing faster than their natural ability which makes them prone to accidents?  Do you want to end up like the late Stanley Dancer who was riddled with arthritis in his later years?  Worse yet, do you want to find yourself in an accident like William Haughton at Yonkers years ago which ended up in his death?  You can say these things won't happen to you, but I am sure these Hall of Fame drivers thought the same thing.

You're young.  You have your family and you have your grandchildren.  Perhaps this latest spill is the sign to say it's time to hang it up and spend more time with your family and appreciate what you have. You certainly don't owe racing anything especially when compared to being around your family.

This is not to say you can't continue your involvement with harness racing.  I understand you have been buying some horses with no intention of resuming a training career, but if you feel the call of the horses too much, train a couple of your own horses or help out your brother Jim.

Want to help harness racing?  Become a full time ambassador for the sport.  Become a television analyst for harness racing, write an autobiography and travel to the various harness tracks as part of your book tour, drawing people to the tracks, if only for a day.  Get involved in racetrack management, become a judge or a member of a racing commission.  Get involved in the USTA and become a director as a precursor to becoming the President or CEO of the USTA where hopefully you will have the gravitas to influence a dysfunctional industry and if the day comes an office of  commissioner of harness racing is created, who better than you to be the commissioner?

The point is you are important to your family and harness racing.  However, at this time, you could contribute more to the sport out of the sulky than in the sulky. It is time to retire while you can.  You owe it to yourself and your family.


JC#1Fan said...

This is your opinion about John Campbell and what his next step should be, however, I know the person John is and I know he is not going to leave the racing industry this way. Racing and horses have been a major part of John's successful life as a driver from the time he was born. His happiest moments have been shared on the racetrack and giving that up is easier said than done. It's great for him to get involved with owning horses but he is still a skilled and strategic driver on the racetrack, a true value to the industry.

He is not too old to keep driving horses and this past accident was just terrible bad luck that should not have happened. In this industry horses don't just fall down and John has had two horses fall down right in front of him within one month's time. You can't base a lifetime decision off of bad luck. John always spends a lot of time with his family, they are a tight-knit group that live within 5 miles of each other. He always has his priorities straight and racing horses is still a major priority to John. Giving up racing means more time for him to golf and while that is in his future as he nears retirement, I know in my heart he is not done yet.

His attitude and diligence with recovery will get him back into that sulky winning races. It is an injury, yes, however he did not need surgery like past accidents that required way more time and rehabilitation. John will retire sometime in the near future, yes, but he will do it on his own terms. He will continue to help the harness racing industry in the future and at some point you are right in saying he will step down as a driver. Just not now, not because of a horse falling down in front of him. This man has built an empire and he is going to end it on a high note- in the winner's circle where he has been so many times before.

Pacingguy said...

You may be very right about the situation. Unfortunately, these days horses fall down in front of you more often than they used to; probably because we are forcing horses to faster than they are meant to go.

By all means, he should retire on his terms; I just would hate to see a man as talented as him run into something worse.

Anonymous said...

His last accident was caused by a driver in front of him allowing his horse to step on the front wheel of a bike. This can easily cause an accident and has many times. Drivers need to be less careless... especially seasoned ones.