06/18/2012 11:41AM

Jay Bergman: Campbell has another trotting contender


One can tell Jim Campbell is no stranger to major trotting races just by asking him a question. Campbell, who in 1995 trained Hambletonian winner Tagliabue, knows that when it comes to the trotting elite, there's no such thing as a sure thing.

Back in 2002 Campbell trained the 2-year-old Broadway Hall to an undefeated season. A son of Conway Hall, he was invincible in nine starts for owners Arlene and Jules Siegel and was a sure-fire bet to be the Hambletonian favorite in 2003. That, of course, was before the horse suffered a racing-career-ending injury before ever reaching the starting gate at age 3.

Fortunately, Broadway Hall was allowed to become a stallion for the Siegel's Fashion Farm in Pennsylvania, and the fruits of his labor have been paying off nicely for those willing to believe he was in fact a special colt. Last year Broadway Hall's Broad Bahn captured the Hambletonian. This year trainer Campbell has an impressive homebred named Stormin Normand, who this past Friday trotted to a 1:51 4/5 career-best effort in one of two $25,000 elimination heats for the $500,000 Earl Beal Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

"I was very happy with his performance," said Campbell. "It was only his second start of the year and he raced great."

Yet true to form, Campbell didn't miss the opportunity to suggest that the Beal and every other trotting race going forward this season would be no cakewalk. "There are too many of them out there that can go fast. This is a tough and very deep group," said Campbell.

Among the group leaders right now would have to be the impressive pacing-bred trotter Googoo Gaagaa. Before Stormin Normand hit the track this past Friday, Googoo Gaagaa toured the five-eighths oval in a world-record-setting 1:51 3/5 performance, blowing away a solid group for trainer-owner Richard Hans and driver Corey Callahan.

"That was a scary mile. He's a freak. He was unbelievable," Campbell said.

Googoo Gaagaa's record indicates that he has never been beaten when he didn't make a break, and that was just once in an 11-race career. That includes a stunning victory in the Simpson at the Meadowlands in early May. Though his sire, Cams Rocket, a son of Cams Card Shark, was a pacer, Googoo Gaagaa's dam Koras Trotter did in fact trot.

But Stormin Normand isn't bad in his own right. The seventh foal of Idole Normand, herself a career winner of $394,570 on the racetrack primarily in Quebec, Stormin Normand showed the winning prowess of his dad in taking 6 of 7 starts as a 2-year-old, including the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. The record was worth $269,643 to owner Jules Siegel's account.

In 2012 Stormin Normand sports a win and second-place finish and has met Jimmy Takter's best 3-year-old, Uncle Peter, on both occasions. In Stormin Normand's first start, a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes event at The Meadows, he cut the entire mile yet couldn't withstand the onslaught of Uncle Peter in the stretch, finishing second. Last Friday driver Dave Palone sent him to the front passing the stands (three-eighths of a mile complete) and the colt snapped off consecutive 28-second-and-change quarters to hold sway by a half-length of the hard-charging Uncle Peter.

In many ways Stormin Normand is just like his sire, Broadway Hall. "He's a real professional when he goes out on the racetrack," said Campbell. Indeed, the colt has yet to disappoint his connections and is certainly primed for a good account this weekend.

Yet as Campbell said, there are plenty of colts in the Beal field that can step up and upset. "Just look at Magic Tonight. He trotted in 1:52 4/5 in his last start and he finished fourth Friday," Campbell said.

The depth in the 3-year-old trotting division was evident as well on Saturday night when the $351,000 Goodtimes final at Mohawk was contested and 8-1 shot Beer Summit captured the race in a blanket finish.

As good as Stormin Normand was a year ago and is today, Campbell could have an even better one ready to make his qualifying debut this week. Possess The Will, last year's Valley Victory winner at Chester, closed out his 2-year-old campaign with five wins in his last six starts. The loss was a stinger for Campbell since it came in Ontario and it came on Breeders Crown night a week after Possess The Will had easily captured his elimination heat. Perhaps most disappointing was the fact that Campbell had to hand the lines over to a new driver that night when regular pilot Tim Tetrick was stranded in New Jersey.

Despite the second-place finish in the Breeders Crown, Possess The Will completed his seven-win season with $550,789 in earnings and was voted the Dan Patch winner as the most outstanding freshman in his class.

Possess The Will, a colt from the very first crop of Donato Hanover, is starting later than many of the top 3-year-olds but should be able to catch up quickly. "We got behind with him. He got sick at the end of April and that set us back," said Campbell.

With 2-year-old season upon us Campbell has baby-raced a few at the Meadowlands. He has some nice looking trotters but few words to say about them. "I don't like to talk about 2-year-olds until August or September," Campbell said emphatically.

There should be plenty to talk about, before, during, and after this Saturday's Earl Beal Memorial is contested. That's because a week later many of the same horses, including Beal favorite Googoo Gaagaa will have a chance to go in the first jewel of trotting's Triple Crown, the $500,000-estimated Yonkers Trot. Eliminations for the Yonkers are slated for June 30 at the Westchester County track. The Beal and the Yonkers will give trotting lovers an opportunity to see Googoo Gaagaa against the best trotters around for the next three weeks. The colt will not compete in the $1.5 million Hambletonian in August since he was not made eligible to the sport's biggest prize.