Hightstown, NJ — It is rare for a trainer to make fewer than 300 starts in a year and earn more than $3 million in purses. Going back nearly 30 years, it has happened only four times, with Gene Riegle in 1992, Jimmy Takter in 2000, Greg Peck in 2009, and Jim Campbell this season.
But Campbell this year made something rare something unique. He became the only trainer in the quartet to accomplish the feat without a horse in his stable reaching $1 million.
Campbell entered Tuesday with 265 starts and $3.13 million in purses. He has posted 67 wins and hit the board a total of 149 times, a 56-percent rate. His horses earned paychecks in 202 races, a 76-percent clip.
Among his notable performers this year were Grand Circuit winners Millies Possesion, a 3-year-old filly trotter who earned $501,037; 2-year-old male trotter Real Cool Sam, who earned $497,774; 4-year-old male trotter Crystal Fashion, who banked $478,175; 2-year-old filly trotter Sherry Lyns Lady, who earned $300,554; and 2-year-old filly trotter Next Level Stuff, who earned $165,455.
Stakes-winning 2-year-olds Beyond Ecstasy, Beyond Kronos, Madame Sherry, and Hobbs also earned six figures for Campbell’s stable.
“It was a very good year,” Campbell said. “Especially when we’re racing, I don’t pay much attention to (the numbers). I’m just focused on what we have going on that week. I did look a little at it when we were done racing. I had no clue (about topping $3 million). I don’t pay attention until it’s all over.
“I think we had more horses earn over six figures than some other years. It seemed like it was more horses in different categories showed up for some big races. They might not have won them, but they hit the board and were competitive.”
The highlight of the season was Hambletonian Day when Real Cool Sam won the Peter Haughton Memorial, Crystal Fashion won the John Cashman Memorial, Millies Possesion finished second in the Hambletonian Oaks, Sherry Lyns Lady finished second in the Jim Doherty Memorial, and Cantab Fashion advanced to the Hambletonian final despite a late start to his season because of a variety of issues.
“That day would stand out more than anything else,” Campbell said. “We had two wins, two really good seconds, and a horse get to the Hambo final. Cantab Fashion did all he could do. From where he was a month prior, if you told me he would be racing in the final, I would have been surprised.
“Overall, I think it was our best day racing-wise on Hambletonian Day, without winning the Hambo or the Oaks. I drove home that day very excited and happy.”
Crystal Fashion’s win in the Hambletonian Maturity also was a memorable day.
“That would be a very close second (to Hambletonian Day),” Campbell said. “That was a very exciting night. To have him win a race like that, he’s just been a special horse for us.”
Other top wins for Campbell this season were Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships with Millies Possesion and Real Cool Sam, the Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes with Sherry Lyns Lady, Matron Stakes with Next Level Stuff, and a division of the Delvin Miller Memorial with Millies Possesion.
Millies Possesion, who this season became only the second filly trotter in the past 40 years to be unraced at 2 and earn more than $500,000 at 3, was retired because of injury but the remainder of Campbell’s top-earners should be back in 2020.
“We’re pretty optimistic about some of them coming back, but it is horse racing,” Campbell said. “They all have to come back and prove themselves again.”