05/09/2012 7:37AM

Meadowlands: Campbell has big shots in Cutler, Graduate

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John Campbell, 57, has driven the earners of $277 million.

On Saturday night at the Meadowlands driver John Campbell will take a seat behind two potentially live horses in hopes of adding to his legacy. The 57-year-old is the all-time leader in earnings with over $277 million banked by horses under his control.

In the $210,000 AJ Cutler Memorial for older trotters, Campbell will sit behind the sometimes erratic yet super-talented Hot Shot Blue Chip (post 1). Winless in three starts this year, the gelded son of Revenue S looks to get on the board and find the speed that has helped him increase his earnings totals in each of the previous three seasons ($152,677, $280,800, $358,510).

In last week’s final prep for the final, Hot Shot Blue Chip displayed a bit more life while coming uncovered and trying to grind up to the leader. But he flattened in the stretch and was a well-beaten third, which was a bit disappointing for Campbell.

“I was expecting more," said Campbell, who admires Hot Shot Blue Chip’s pure speed. "Having said that, it was a good race and hopefully he will be tighter on Saturday. Especially with this guy, you have to race them a few times to get back into peak condition."

For Hot Shot Blue Chip to win he will have to overcome a newcomer to the older ranks in 4-year-old Mister Herbie, who recently defeated Horse of the Year San Pail. Those two will start side by side but Campbell doesn’t expect to be in the early tussle.

“He’s not a fast leaver," he said. "Hopefully we’ll get away in mid-pack and he will step up.”

Campbell potentially has even more power at his command in the $180,000 Graduate final for free for all pacers. He will guide $2.2 million career earner and Breeders Crown winner Bettor Sweet. The Graduate final shapes up as the strongest collection of older pacers this year.

Bettor Sweet has gone two underwhelming miles in 2012 and will need to pick up his game is he wants to compete with the likes of reigning Pacer of the Year Foiled Again and the last week’s Graduate elimination winner Rockincam.

“When you are racing against these tough older pacers it is difficult to get back to that peak level so quickly,” said Campbell. “He didn’t finish as fast as I would have liked last week but I’m not giving up on him for the final. He’s going to improve by leaps and bounds as he races.”

One clear plus in Bettor Sweet’s corner is a favorable post position. Campbell will guide the 7-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight from post two in the 10-horse field.

“That will give me more options and allow me to use his early speed if I need to,” said Campbell, who cited Foiled Again, Atochia and Rockincam as his toughest competition in the final.

The AJ Cutler Memorial kicks off the $75,000 guaranteed pick four in race six. The Graduate final is slated as race 9 on the Meadowlands’ 12-race card.



Campbell on . . .

The Meadowlands: Is he happy with the early progress at the track since operator Jeff Gural took control in December?

“They are moving in the right direction. They are trying a lot of new things and I see lots of reason for optimism.”

His health: Campbell suffered a broken shoulder and knee in May of 2011 after an accident at Harrah’s Chester.

“I feel excellent and have no residual effects.”

The banked turns at Meadowlands: The turns at the Meadowlands were banked prior to the 2012 racing season in an attempt to help make the track less speed favoring.

“I definitely think it has made an impact. It is still a speed track, but when you come second- or third-over and have pace, you’re not losing ground like before.”

New whipping rules in New Jersey: New Jersey adopted new whipping rules last week that prohibit the excess use of the whip and limits the frequency and scope of when and where the whip can be used. Campbell felt an adjustment period would be necessary before the rules would become second nature for the drivers but agreed with the rules.

“We as drivers have to change our thinking and appease the concerns of people and organizations. I’m in favor of anything that keeps away negative publicity.”