John Campbell, a Hambletonian Society director since 1992 and harness racing's leading money-winning driver of all time, was recently elected president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Society in a unanimous vote of the board of directors at the winter board meeting held March 12 in Boca Raton, Florida.
He replaces current president Tom Charters effective July 1, 2017.
Campbell will fulfill his driving commitments through June of this year.
"I want to thank the Hambletonian Society for their support and confidence in this new and exciting opportunity," said Campbell. "It is a challenge that I am looking forward to.
"I would also like to thank and commend Tom Charters for all his years of service. I have worked with Tom on various projects over the years and have tremendous respect for his opinion and passion for harness racing. I have sought his advice many times over the years and will continue to do so moving forward.
"He has worked tirelessly for the betterment of our sport, many times in the background, not receiving the credit that was his due," Campbell emphasized.
"Going forward, I will be reaching out to all facets of our industry, encouraging them to make decisions that are in the best interest of our sport. We have our issues and problems, no question, but I believe very strongly that from a betting and entertainment point of view our sport can be relevant and attractive."
Tom Charters, the current president and CEO of the Hambletonian Society, had informed the board last August of his intent to cut back on his schedule. He will step down as president, a position he has held since 1998. He will remain on staff through the Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park in October and on the Society board as a director.
The Hambletonian Society is a not-for-profit organization which supports and encourages the breeding of Standardbred horses by sponsoring and administering stakes and other special events in harness racing. The Society was founded in 1924 to organize the Hambletonian Stake, one of 37 races it currently owns, and one of the 131 stakes events it oversees. These races are some of the richest and most prestigious racing events across North America, held at 14 different racetracks, involving the processing of more than 51,700 individual payments totaling $11.6 million and responsible for the disbursement of more than $14.8 million in purses.
No active driver or jockey has amassed more purse money than John Campbell. His career earnings top $299 million from more than 10,600 victories in his four decades of driving. He has led all North American drivers in earnings 16 times and has won every major race in the sport - including a record six Hambletonians - at least once.
His remarkable career on the racetrack saw him elected to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1990 at age 35, the youngest person so honored and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1987. He was voted Stanley F. Bergstein-Proximity Achievement Award Winner in 2012; voted U.S. Harness Writers Driver of the Year in 2006 and W. R. Haughton Good Guy in 2002; the Harness Horse Youth Foundation Service To Youth honoree in 2003; awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his commitment to harness racing by the Governor General of Canada in 2000 and is president of the Grand Circuit and a director of the Little Brown Jug Society.
Charters was originally hired by the Society in 1984 to guide the newly created Breeders Crown championship series.
"I am proud of what the Society has accomplished over the last three decades, especially in sponsoring the two preeminent events in harness racing, the $1 million Hambletonian and the $6 million Breeders Crown," said Charters.
"I believe this is the perfect opportunity for the Society. John's accomplishments on the race track are beyond compare and his knowledge and broad grasp of the traditions of the sport and the current day challenges of the industry will be of enormous benefit to the Society.
"I look forward to continuing to work with John, as he has provided valuable counsel in past matters, and his leadership qualities and the industry-wide respect he commands represent make him a unique choice for the Society.
"The timing is right," concluded Charters.
by Moira Fanning for the Hambletonian Society