Cool Papa Bell delivers 52-1 upset in 97th Hambletonian

To watch a race replay of Cool Papa Bell’s Hambletonian victory (available at 12:01 a.m. Sunday), click here.

East Rutherford, NJ — Cool Papa Bell was a legend in baseball’s Negro Leagues, the era when players of color were banned from Major League Baseball.

Cool Papa Bell, the trotter named for the ballplayer, carved his own legend by pulling off the biggest upset in Hambletonian history on Saturday (Aug. 6) at The Meadowlands, paying $106 to win.

Cool Papa Bell emerged belatedly to upset at 52-1 in the 97th edition of the Hambletonian, for 3-year-old trotters, on Saturday at The Meadowlands. Lisa photo.

His 1:51.3 victory was a stunning conclusion to a stakes-laden afternoon on a day when temperatures soared into the 90s at The Big M.

For Jim Campbell, it was also a memorable day as he became the third trainer to win the $1 million Hambletonian and the filly companion event, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, in the same year. Fashion Schooner paid $14 for her Oaks upset earlier in the day.

Campbell, the brother of Hall of Fame driver John Campbell, joined the elite circle occupied only by Jimmy Takter and Jan Johnson.

The Oaks surprise was just a hint of things to come.

“It’s unbelievable,” Campbell said. “It’s something that I never dreamed could happen because it’s so hard to get a horse to get into one of the races. To come out and win both of them, I’m just very blessed. I’ve gone out of here many nights when things didn’t go good in my truck, and be mad. A day like today erases any bad day I’ve ever had in horse racing.”

It was the second Hambletonian win for Campbell, who trained Tagliabue to victory in 1995.

Cool Papa Bell gave “Rising Star” Todd McCarthy the biggest driving win of his blossoming career.

McCarthy, to borrow a Thoroughbred expression, gave Cool Papa Bell a “ground-saving trip.” Away in the back of the pack, Cool Papa Bell threaded his way around horses to hug the pylons, moving into contention rounding the second turn.

Up front, 3-5 favorite Rebuff was on the lead and trying to close the deal. When he weakened, ultimately finishing sixth, an upset started to percolate. Cool Papa Bell shook loose at the top of the lane, angling outside for his first clear path in the scramble to the finish.

“We did get fortunate with a couple of breakers,” Campbell said. “That did help us. People kept moving off the rail and he kept advancing, which was the winning move. Todd deserves all the credit for that. Instead of worrying about getting into a slow outer tier, he figured to take a shot up the inside.”

From that point, it was up to the overlooked gelding.

“Out of the turn, I didn’t know, they were still looking pretty cozy there,” McCarthy said. “I wasn’t quite sure how much I’d have left there, too. But when that little fella straightened, he had his mind on the job today and halfway down the stretch, I knew if everything kept going well, we’d be right there.”

Cool Papa Bell won by three-quarters of a length over the filly Joviality S, with Temporal Hanover third to give trainer Marcus Melander the second- and third-place finishers.

Cool Papa Bell posted his seventh win in 17 career starts for Scott Farber’s Runthetable Stables, from Montvale, N.J.

Farber paid $100,000 for Cool Papa Bell as a yearling, the most he had ever paid for a horse.

Sometimes bargains come in expensive packages.

Farber, a college baseball player and student of the sport, changed the horse’s name to honor the ballplayer rumored to be among the fastest players the sport had ever produced.

“I was hoping the horse would live up to the great ballplayer’s name,” Farber said. “He’s done just that.”

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