Mach Three: Drivers

Mach Three
Matt's Scooter - All Included - Abercrombie
p2,1:51.1 ; p3,1:49 ; 1:51.1h - $2,376,700

   The Right Stuff

Courtesy of The Canadian Sportsman - 1 November 2001

By Dave Briggs

After conquering just about all there is to conquer, what still motivates harness racing's number one money man, John Campbell? The same thing that drives other great athletes...

So you want to know how he does it? What really makes him tick? Why the fire still roars at age 46, even though he has won just about every stakes race ever written, and tucked away enough money to live the good life for the rest of his days?

That, my friends, is the $200-million question.

Try this for an answer: It is the end of a blustery October night at Woodbine. John Campbell has just won three Breeders Crowns. There is more money in his pocket than ever before from a single card of racing. And he is carrying a sign congratulating him on reaching $200 million in career purse earnings.

Yet, on the night of nights, in what has been the year of years for Campbell, what was foremost on his mind was the one that got away.

Campbell thought, at the very least, he should have won four Breeders Crowns. He was still irritated that Andover Hall, the 1-9 favourite he was driving in the freshman trotting colt division, made a break going to the gate and finished dead last. And that uncharacteristic miscue happened early in the card, before Campbell won three Crowns, topped $200 million and had made even a nickel of the dizzying $1.24 million he ended up with on the night.

When asked whether the other wins made up for Andover Hall's galloping gazelle routine, Campbell was blunt. "No. You can't go back." He went on to elaborate on his frustration, for himself and Andover Hall's connections. That the colt now had a blemish on a previously-flawless record. That Andover Hall was clearly the best in the field.

Let there be no mistake, Campbell was as pleased as punch and judy to have the night he had. Just things could have been even better, is all.

So what have we learned? Definitely not that Campbell is greedy, pouty, ungrateful or a sore loser. Those who know him say that is far, far, faaaar from it. But competitive? Fiercely so? Ahhh... now we are getting somewhere.

Which is just something else in his favour, besides what has already been well established about Campbell:

That he has been blessed with a not-of-this-world talent in a race bike.

That through experience and intense study he has developed incredible intuition, smarts and an unequalled sense of pace on the track.

That he is a master at not only knowing what the other horses are capable of, but also the tendencies of the other drivers.

That he only uses the whip when necessary, and never on a horse that has no more to give, saving something for next week.

That, thanks to wonderful parents and grandparents, and his rural Ontario upbringing, he is as grounded as an 100-year-old oak.

That he puts his wife, Paula, and their three daughters first on his list of priorities.

That he maintains contact with many of the friends he made long before he became harness racing's Mr. Everything.

That he is almost always polite and agreeable with the media, when time allows.

That he puts back into the sport through his work with charities and various industry committees, and gladly wears the sash as harness racing's unofficial ambassador.

That he is conscious of his place in the sport and conducts himself appropriately, operating under a firm set of self-imposed guidelines.

Flawless? No one is. But is he as close as this sport has seen and may ever see? You bet.

But one wonders what motivates a man who seemingly has it all and has done it all. He has won all of harness racing's classic races, some many times over. He long ago was enshrined in the sport's Halls of Fame in both the U.S. and his native Canada (he is the youngest man to be inducted in both cases). He has set the money standard by which all other drivers are, and likely will be, judged. And he has driven many of the best horses this sport has seen in the last 25 years.

Besides pushing the envelope even farther, there is not much left.

Yet, Campbell's answer to the ubiquitous question of what continues to motivate him is simple. "I can still do this," he says with a shrug.

Talk about an understatement.

If we concede money is now the sport's ultimate yard stick, then this year, Campbell has stretched the measuring tape to Mars. Not so much in terms of winning the biggies, because admittedly he has had better years in that department. But in terms of money earned, there has been nothing close - by anyone... ever.

At last check, he had surpassed $13 million this year. With a fall meet at the Meadowlands, and a series of rich stakes races once belonging to Garden State Park still to be factored at the Big M, there is no telling how high that number will climb.

Naturally, he held the sport's previous record for driver earnings in a year - over $11.6 million in 1990. This year, he has already driven the winners of close to $1.4 million more than he did in '90.

Not impressed yet? Try this one: So far in 2001, Campbell has posted staggering average earnings of $7,943 per start. That's up more than $1,000 per start from his previous best, set last year. The next closest driver in earnings per start this year among North America's money leaders is Mike Lachance, who is almost more than $2,700 off the pace.

Sure, purses are up for most stakes races. Sure, they are at unprecedented levels in Canada and at Campbell's home track, the Meadowlands. But at the top end of the sport where Campbell flourishes, purses have been juicy for some time now.

Want to talk consistency? How about this one: Over his 29-year driving career, Campbell has averaged earnings of slightly better than $4,500 per start. Lachance is next best of the big hitters with nearly $2,800.

Do not even bring up that tired old argument that Campbell drives the best horses, so his success is a given. Campbell has earned better that $8 million a year for the past 17 straight years. Certainly, his ability has, for the most part, earned him the right to pick the best horses. But the fact that he has not squandered that opportunity, that he has produced with startling consistency for longer than most pro athletes' entire careers, proves he has more than earned that right.

His first $100 million came in 1991, almost 10 years to the day - and also, coincidentally on a card in which he won three Breeders Crown races - before he reached $200 million. Quick math tells us that he has averaged $10 million a year over the last decade.

Even compared to thoroughbred racing's most successful jockeys - who generally speaking race for higher purses - Campbell has done exceptionally well. Ranked against the jockeys, Campbell would sit sixth on the all-time money list, behind Chris McCarron ($256 million), Pat Day ($252.6 million), Laffit Pincay, Jr. ($224 million), Jerry Bailey (almost $220 million) and Gary Stevens ($201 million).

In harness racing terms, over his career, Campbell is currently more that $62 million ahead of the next driver (Lachance again) on the all-time money list.

Okay, fabulous figures. But what is at the root of that sterling record of consistency?

Some say it is his incredible savvy; his ability to evaluate his competition and get the most out of his horses.

Others say it is a combination of talent and focus that makes his mistakes and bad drives fewer and farther between than other drivers.

I contend it is more an intestinal inferno, similar to ones credited as the fuel of nearly all of the world's greatest athletes. Simply put, he has the stuff. Difficult to quantify. Impossible to manufacture. Rare to possess.

Sure, in terms of the raw desire to win the race at hand, his competitiveness is probably no greater than other top drivers. In fact, Campbell is better than most at blending in perspective and not letting his hunger for victory boil over.

But as owner Bob Waxman suggests, Campbell is way ahead of other drivers in terms of laying the foundation for his successful years. Waxman says Campbell has developed an informal information network that is second to none. Long before stakes horses hit the limelight, Campbell knows who is hot, who is coming and with what horses lies his best chance for success.

His sharp eye for talent and his ability to quickly evaluate a horse's ability help immeasurably.

His unbending belief in picking the best horses available, regardless of the trainer, is key. No one knows this better than his own brother, Jim, who has watched John pick other people's horses time and time again.

Long before Hambletonians and Jugs and Breeders Crowns, Campbell is vigorously searching for his next possible champion. In short, like most great athletes, he lays the groundwork for success in the offseason.

While that also speaks to an admirable work ethic stitched into his DNA by his father and grandfather, both talented horsemen in their own right, I believe Campbell is more than a man who wants to work hard and do things the right way.

His thirst for the highest level of success is, so far, unquenchable. His ability to raise his game to unreachable heights when the most is on the line is positively Jordanesque.

Maybe that explains what happened on Oct. 19 at Woodbine, because early in the card, things were mighty ugly for Campbell. In his first three Crown drives, piloting a favourite and two horses that were the bettors' second choice, Campbell wound up penniless. Two of the horses made breaks, while the other was given what could only be described as a bad steer. All of which extended his Breeders Crown drought to more than three years, downright scary stuff for a man who has now won a series-leading 36 Crown events in his lifetime.

"I was thinking about bringing him a beer," said Campbell's wife, Paula, with a hearty laugh, referring to her husband's poor showing early in the card. "I knew his mood wouldn't be too good."

But instead of letting the miserableness of it all infect his thinking and have things come completely unravelled, Campbell rebounded with a flourish. He carved out victories with Western Shooter in the two-year-old pacing colt division, Syrinx Hanover in the three-year-old trotting fillies' test to go over $200 million lifetime and he ended the Crown events with an impressive win with Real Desire in the sophomore pacing colt class.

While Paula joked her husband's motivation might just have been the fact their second daughter is getting married this month, the truth is, it was pure Campbell. When the big money is on the line, there is no one better.

Yet, while reaching $200 million in his career and more than $13 million in 2001 is worthy of serious contemplation by Campbell watchers, he prefers to look at them simply as numbers. Big numbers, he allows, but numbers just the same.

For now, there is no stopping for long, reflective gazes into the valley below; little contemplation of how far he has come. As John Campbell sees it, he is just getting started.

   John Campbell - World Champion Driver

The list of accomplishments that John Campbell has achieved in the sport of harness racing could more than fill up this press kit. The London, ON native has won the North America Cup an incredible six times: [Precious Bunny [1991], Cams Card Shark [1994], Davids Pass [1995], Arizona Jack [1996], Gothic Dream [1997] and The Panderosa [1999].

Perhaps nothing tells the story about Campbell better than the fact that he was elected into the Living Hall of Fame in 1990 at the age of 35, the youngest individual to be so honoured.

When Campbell piloted Syrinx Hanover to victory in the 2001 Breeders Crown three year-old filly trot at Woodbine he became the first driver in history to pass $200 million in career earnings.

The New Jersey resident also was the first to top $100 million in 1991, also in a Breeders Crown race, with Armbro Keepsake.

Last year saw Campbell finish atop the North American money-winning chase with a total of $14,184,863, crushing his own single-season record of $11,620,878 set back in 1990. It was the seventh time that John had cracked the $10 million plateau in a single campaign. Since capturing his first earnings title in 1979, Campbell has never finished worse than third in any subsequent year, and has finished at the top of the list 15 times.

Although Campbell has driven many world champions in his career, his accomplishments behind a trio of trotters are his most noteworthy. The colts Mack Lobell and Pine Chip and the filly Peace Corps are among the best of all time in their respective sex and gaits. Campbell’s expertise in the sulky helped Mack Lobell earn Horse of the Year in both 1987 and 1988. Mack Lobell became only the third trotter in the history of the Horse of the Year balloting to repeat in the top spot.

In addition to Mack Lobell, Pine Chip, and Peace Corps, Campbell has driven many other world record holders. Those with their names still in the books are the pacers PB Bullville, Jay’s Table, Art Dialing, Artsplace, Miss Easy, Shes A Great Lady, Stand Forever, and Western Shooter as well as the trotters Wesgate Crown, Incredible Abe, Mister Goal, and Dream Vacation.

Campbell got his start in racing from his father Jack, a respected horseman in Southwestern Ontario.

John supports numerous charitable organizations and his wife, Paula, is one of the founders of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.

In the fall of 2000, John was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his commitment to the sport of harness racing by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada.

   Randy Waples

Randall Waples - North America's leading driver in 2003 "Mach Three had the ability to use his high speed to his advantage because of his great manners but he also had the qualities that separates the good ones from the great ones and that is toughness and soundness. He was a Cadillac to drive. He was perfect. No doubt one of the best horses I sat behind

Courtesy of Trot Magazine

Randy followed his father, Ron, a Hall of Famer into harness racing and his brother Ron Jr. is also a successful horseman. His first win came with Octagon in 1984 at Greenwood Raceway. 1996 was a breakthrough year for Randy, a former commentator on the OJC's in-house television show, as he surpassed the $1 million mark in earnings for the first time. A year later he was a finalist for an O'Brien Award in the Driver of the Year category after a stellar season which saw him win the Canadian Pacing Derby, Canada's oldest harness stakes event, with Strong Clan.

In 1998, Waples won the O'Brien after a career best season which saw him lead all Canadian based drivers in wins with 452 and finish second in the earnings column with $4.2 million He was also named the OJC's Driver of the Year. Randy donated half a year's driving commissions from Flamboro Downs in 1998 to the Crohns and Colitis Foundation and the Hamilton Food Share.

1999 was a career year for Waples as he won 453 races and over $5.1 million in purse earnings. In addition, he won his second consecutive Ontario Jockey Club Driver of the Year title with 322 wins and captured three Canadian Breeders Championship Finals with Erikas Fame, Twin B Champ and Apache Rage. Waples won the Battle of Waterloo with two-year-old pacing colt, Your Nemesis and numerous OJC stakes events including the Horsemens Trot with Turnpike Token and the Gold Cup with Royalflush Hanover.

The last two years have both been outstanding seasons for Waples, particularly last year, when he shattered Doug Brown's WEG single season win record of 417, with 430 wins. He also surpassed Chris Christoforou's single season earnings record on the Woodbine circuit, winning $9.4 million in purse cheques. Those accolades were enough to bag him a second O'Brien Award as Canada's finest reinsman in 2001.

Birthplace - Toronto, Ontario Birthdate - July 31, 1965 Residence - Moffat, Ontario Colours - Blue - Gold

Favourite Driver Growing Up - Ron Waples Favourite Race - North America Cup Former Favourite Sports Team - New York Rangers (whatever team Gretzky played for) Favourite Movies - Pulp Fiction and Wizard of Oz Favourite actor / actress - James Stewart /Olivia Dehavilland Hobbies - snowmobiling, jogging, working out...considered an acting career prior to attaining harness racing success

   Mike Lachance

Mike Lachance has no plans to hang up reins

By Ken Weingartner - The Messenger-Press - Monday, January 29, 2001

For four straight years in the mid-1980s, nobody won more harness races than Mike Lachance. In fact, in 1986, he set a then-world record by driving to 770 victories in a single season.

But he found that tearing up the Roosevelt/Yonkers circuit in upstate New York wasn't as satisfying as he imagined. It was time to raise the bar and head to the Meadowlands and Grand Circuit.

"That's a different ball game completely," Mr. Lachance said. "I shifted my thinking to winning the money races. I know there are guys who just want to win as many races as they can. I can't blame them. I felt like that at a time. But once I did all that, it didn't mean that much to me. I wanted to be where the money was, the prestige."

A 50-year-old native of St. Augustin, Quebec, Mr. Lachance has found his place among the best in the game. He has won ever major race, including four Little Brown Jugs and three Hambletonians, and in 1995 was inducted into the sport's Living Hall of Fame.

Mr. Lachance is building a house on a 15-acre farm he purchased on Sweetmans Lane in Millstone Township. He plans to have a small, non-commercial horse operation there, perhaps with his son, trainer Patrick Lachance.

"We leveled everything that was there and we're building from scratch," Mr. Lachance said. "But it will be nothing big."

Unlike his career, which has been quite impressive. At the age of 12, he already was winning races on the county fair circuit in Canada. He won his first pari-mutuel race in 1967 and worked his way through the lower levels of the sport to stardom.

He is second in career purse earnings, having won more than $120 million. He has ranked among the top five drivers at the Meadowlands every year since 1988, and set a track record in 1995 by driving eight winners in a single day.

Mr. Lachance has won nearly two dozen Breeders Crown races, the Hambletonian Oaks, the Cane Pace, Yonkers Trot, Messenger, Meadowlands Pace, North America Cup, World Trotting Derby, and Governor's Cup, to name a few.

He has driven star horses such as Matt's Scooter, Continentalvictory, Self Possessed, Artiscape, Mystical Maddy, Rum Boogie, Western Dreamer, Magical Mike, and Island Fantasy.

"They say a good horse makes a good driver," Mr. Lachance said. "But a great driver is very important. I don't care what they say, a great driver is the finishing touch. It's a combination of owner, trainer, and driver."

While there have been numerous wonderful moments, Mr. Lachance said his 1999 Hambletonian victory at the Meadowlands with Self Possessed stands out.

"That was a great day," Mr. Lachance said. "It was later in my career. My whole family was there from Canada. I had my granddaughter in the winner's circle. That's one I keep in mind. That one was something very special."

Actually, Mr. Lachance never has to look far to find family. He drives horses for his son, Patrick, who is stabled at White Birch Farm in Upper Freehold Township. Last year, the younger Lachance finished seventh in the trainer standings at the Meadowlands.

"I didn't want to see him in the horse business," Mr. Lachance said. "It's a very tough business. He was a pretty good hockey player. I'd like to have seen him go to college and keep playing hockey. That's not what he had in mind.

"But now I'm glad he came into the business with me. He's doing very well. He's very calm. He's not a big talker. I like his style. He's very reserved and confident."

Mr. Lachance's nephew, Luc Ouellette, has been the top driver at the Meadowlands the past two years. Of course, those family ties mean little when racing.

"It's like I race with anybody else," Mr. Lachance said. "There's no more family when we get on the track."

Mr. Ouellette is among a group of younger drivers challenging the veterans like Mr. Lachance, John Campbell, Jack Moiseyev and Catello Manzi. Mr. Lachance said Mr. Ouellette, Daniel Dube, David Miller, Eric Ledford and George Brennan represent the future.

"That younger crew is tough," he said. "They're all great drivers. I get along good with most of these guys. I've never been a complainer. As long as you respect me, I'll respect you."

Mr. Lachance has no plans to step aside for the younger drivers any time soon.

"I've had a lot of good times in this business," he said. "I take it one year at a time. I don't want to have any plans to stop. I drive now just as good as ever. The last five years have been my best. Experience, you just can't buy it. I've still got good years ahead of me."

   Steve Condren

Steve Condren - 20 year veteran on the WEG Circuit

"Mach Three was a real strong, powerful colt. The night I drove him he was pacing powerfully the entire mile. At the wire at had a lot of horse left. He did it so easy. It was an honour to drive him."

Courtesy of Trot Magazine

Steve Condren vaulted into prominence as a driver as a result of a real "break". A broken wrist sidelined driver Harold Stead for 6 weeks in 1980 and trainer John Burns who was using Stead, along with Doug Brown, picked up Condren as his replacement. The young horseman, who was introduced to harness racing when his family moved from St. Catharines to a small farm near Mohawk, took full advantage of that opportunity. Condren struck out on his own in 1981 and was the youngest driver ever to win 200 races and over one million dollars in purse money on the OJC circuit. From 1985 through 1987 Condren topped the OJC's driving charts, and since 1984 he has eclipsed the $2 million dollar marker in earnings. In 1989 he guided longshot Goalie Jeff to a memorable victory in the $1 million North America Cup.

In 1996 he guided Whenuwishuponastar, to Canadian Horse of the Year honors, and in 1997 Condren won his first O'Brien Award as Canada's Driver of the Year in which he guided two tremendous fillies that he co-owned to stellar seasons. O'Brien Award winner, Elegantimage and Ontario Sires Stakes star, Stonebridge First both contributed to Condren's career year for earnings. ($4.3 million) He also became the sport's eleventh driver to surpass $50 million in career earnings.

In 1998, Condren led Canadian based drivers in purse earnings for the second consecutive year with $4.58 million after winning numerous OJC stakes, including the Fan Hanover Stakes and the Toronto Pacing Series.

1999 was another $4 million plus year for Condren who posted career win number 5,000 with two-year-old pacing colt Intrepid Seelster who he guided to a runner-up finish in the Metro Stakes and numerous Ontario Sires Stakes top three finishes.

Condren has been involved with numerous charitable associations including the Big Brothers of Halton Region, and Ontario's Standardbred Adoption Association who host an annual golf tournament with Steve, who is an avid golfer, as the honorary chair.

Birthplace - St. Catharines, Ontario
Birthdate - July 6, 1957
Residence - Milton, Ontario
Colours - Green-Gold

Favourite Driver Growing Up - Ron Feagan
Favourite Sports Team - Buffalo Bills
Favourite Athlete - Herve Filion
Favourite Movie - The Godfather
Favourite Actor - John Wayne
Hobbies - golfing, skiing.

   Tony Kerwood

Coutesy of Trot Magazine - September 15, 2002

Tony’s father, Frank, encouraged him to get involved in harness racing. He’s been hands on since age 12 and began driving at age 17. Over the past decade, Kerwood, has been one of the leading catch drivers on the Ontario Jockey Club circuit.

In 1988, he was named the OJC’s Horseman of the Year at a time when he also trained a large stable of horse.

Kerwood’s most successful season was a $3 million plus year in 1996, due in large part to the outstanding three-year-old pacing colt Stout who had 10 wins and almost $1 million in earnings. The Confederation Cup was their biggest win although Stout lost two $1 million races - The North America Cup and The Meadowlands Pace, by the narrowest of margins - a nose. Kerwood was also runner-up in the 1993 North America Cup with The Starting Gate.

In May, 1999 Kerwood scored his 3,000th career winner, He’s driven over 100 winners annually since 1985, and he’s earned over $1 million annually since 1986. In 1999, he was the regular driver for pacing star Rambaran who banked more than $300,000.

Birthplace - Scarborough, Ontario
Birthdate - May 26, 1958
Residence - Caledon East, Ontario
Colours - Green-Red-Black

Favourite Driver Growing Up - Ron Waples
Favourite Race - North America Cup
Favourite Sports Team - San Francisco 49ers
Favourite Athlete - Jerry Rice
Favourite Actor - Robert DeNiro
Hobbies - Golf