08/26/2013 10:22AM

Jay Bergman: Cooler Schooner, Campbell have makings of formidable team

Derick Giwner
Cooler Schooner and John Campbell.

When Cooler Schooner blazed the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs trail, stopping the timer in 1:51 3/5 this past Wednesday night (Aug. 21), it sent flashbacks to 1990. In that year, John Campbell, the Hall of Fame driver, sat behind another powerful two-year-old named Artsplace. The pair scooted around the Pompano Park surface in 1:51 1/5, winning the Breeders Crown and obliterating the world record in a time that is still stunning today.

For Campbell, who rarely is seen cutting wild fractions no matter what the circumstance, the orchestration of this Pennsylvania Sire Stakes victory on Cooler Schooner  in a time that bested the world mark by nearly two full seconds was not a total shock.

“We always knew she had a ton of ability. She hasn’t been very consistent. I thought she could trot in 1:52,” Campbell said following the mile.

While the effort helped to recall the great Artsplace and his vintage moment under the stars at Pompano, Campbell veered from the comparison.

“Artsplace had already established himself as the top two-year-old by the time he won the Breeders Crown,” said Campbell.

While Cooler Schooner, trained by Campbell’s brother Jim, had not yet made a name for herself in the division, the filly she beat in the $66,446 event on Wednesday had. “The filly coming from behind was a super filly,” said Campbell, noticing in his rear-view mirror the presence of Shake It Cerry, the previously unbeaten filly that most recently had captured the rich Merrie Annabelle at the Meadowlands.

Such is the case when all great horses establish themselves. Much like Artsplace’s mile, Cooler Schooner’s clocking was legitimized not by the timer alone, but by whom she beat in the process. Shake It Cerry’s pilot Ron Pierce had previously called that filly the “best I’ve ever driven.”

Yet even Campbell knows it’s way too early to call Cooler Schooner a great filly. No doubt she’s a very fast and talented lass, but her manners have yet to catch up with her speed. For a few races since she first burst on the seen with a breathtaking 1:56 1/5 mile taken on June 21 at Harrah’s Philadelphia, the filly had been anything but great.

The Campbell brothers got together following the victory in June, and although they knew they had something special, they also knew it would be impossible to make her into a successful racehorse if they couldn’t control her during the races. Yet somehow in the two-month period between victories, Cooler Schooner was able to keep from breaking in only one race, a second-place effort in the Merrie Annabelle trials at the Meadowlands.

Prior to last week’s exhilarating performance, the brothers put their heads together and agreed.

“We decided to do whatever she wanted. I wasn’t going to fight her,” said Campbell.

That was apparent right from the start as Cooler Schooner exploded from the gait to get control in a 26 4/5 opening quarter, wicked for her age and gait.

“She did come back to me some,” said Campbell about his ability to rate her through the rest of the fractions.

While those fractions were fast, the middle two quarters were under rating with Campbell hardly moving a muscle in the sulky. When Shake It Cerry started breathing down her neck on the final turn, Cooler Schooner was still going at a solid clip.

“When we got to the head of the stretch she was still trotting strongly and she was solid right through the wire,” said Campbell.

One race does not make a champion, and Campbell is way too savvy to believe this effort can be replicated on a weekly basis. For the most part, the issues with Cooler Schooner are within her head. Her athletic ability and quickness of foot are innate characteristics that no driver or trainer would throw way, but at this point she has yet to learn the attributes of all champion racehorses.

“I’m hoping she’ll mature,” said Campbell, who believed that Cooler Schooner can be rated, but at times she can be a little bit too aggressive and that makes his job much more difficult.

Campbell is driving another most impressive two-year-old filly for his brother, the pacing star Gallie Bythe Beach. A homebred daughter of Somebeachsomewhere and the world champion filly Galleria, Gallie Bythe Beach entered this past Saturday’s Shes A Great Lady elimination race with an unblemished record in five starts.

Her win streak was broken in the trials, but Gallie Bythe Beach showed plenty of speed and durability finishing third in the 1:50 3/5 mile posted by Beach Gal. Previously she had been the dominant filly on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit and Campbell liked what he had seen.

“She has that efficient Artsplace gait to her. She looks a lot more like her mother, a little bigger version,” said Campbell about the filly whose damsire is Artsplace.

Unlike her stablemate, Gallie Bythe Beach has shown the ability to race on the front end or come from off the pace, and flourish under both conditions. When it comes to recognizing the talent in two-year-old pacing fillies, it’s hard to call on anyone with more knowledge than Campbell. During the years that some may consider his prime, Campbell’s uncanny ability to win the big ones in this division was unparalleled. Between the 10-year period of 1984-1993 he captured seven Sweetheart stakes events at the Meadowlands. The race during that time was the richest in that class.

While these two fillies have Campbell excited about his prospects going forward, it was his moment in the sun at the Meadowlands this year that stands out in his mind. “I would say winning the U.S. Pacing Championship with Thinking Out Loud was the high point,” said Campbell, who ushered out the old Meadowlands grandstand by winning the final two races there first with Thinking Out Loud and then with Dapper Dude. Both were from the Bob McIntosh stable and both horses came from off the pace on an apparent speed-favoring surface to win.

“I think anytime you have a speed-favoring track eventually drivers start to compensate and push the pace too fast,” said Campbell. “Besides, I was driving two closers. I had to drive them that way.”