07/14/2011 11:17AM

Pace string ends at 30 years for Campbell

Michael Burns
John Campbell likes Big Jim, shown above, as the clear favorite in this Saturday's Meadowlands Pace.

The 2011 edition of the Meadowlands Pace has good storylines and a wide-open field to entice fans and bettors. It is missing something, though: John Campbell. Since 1981, Campbell and the Meadowlands Pace have been joined at the hip. For the first time in 30 editions of this marquee event, Campbell will not line up behind the starting gate.

Campbell, the all-time leader in driver earnings, was injured in an accident at Harrah's Chester on May 31. He suffered a broken collarbone, broken shoulder blade, cracked ribs, and broken bone in his knee.

"I feel really good," remarked a full-of-life Campbell in a phone conversation Wednesday. "I don’t get around that well, but I got on crutches last week. I was restricted to a wheelchair for six weeks because I couldn't support myself on the crutches.

"I go back to the doctor in a week. I’m hoping I can put weight on it then and begin rehab. I’ve been doing some light stuff at home so far," said Campbell, who, barring a setback, is planning on attending the Hambletonian on Aug. 6 at the Meadowlands.

Campbell’s seven Meadowlands Pace wins dwarf the three by Ron Pierce. Dexter Nukes, Cam’s Card Shark, Real Desire, and Mach Three are a few of the horses Campbell has guided home first in New Jersey’s biggest event.

"I guess the only thing I can say is it was a good run,” said Campbell on his 30 consecutive years of driving in the Meadowlands Pace. "Any time you can say you did something for 30 years, it is impressive.

"I’ll be watching the races from home. They have a great card on Saturday,” he continued. “I think it is a very competitive group without a standout horse. I thought Foreclosure N would be a factor and he still could be, but he is compromised by the post. Big Jim is clearly the favorite, though.”

All Campbell can do now is prepare for the road back to the track. Therapy, reflection and decision making is in his future. He has yet to decide whether he will put on his red and white colors on an everyday basis.

“I certainly miss [driving]. I won’t really miss it until I get better and start doing things,” said Campbell, who was optimistic that he could be healthy enough to return well before the Breeders Crown [Oct. 29], should he decide to return.

After winning north of $7 million and placing 15th on the earnings leader board in 2010, it is clear that Campbell still has life on his fastball. For more than three decades he has been the "go-to guy" when the money was on the line. It would be hard to fathom racing without John Campbell.

More on the Meadowlands Pace:
Big Jim installed as Meadowlands Pace favorite
Betterthancheddar looks to buck trend at Meadowlands Pace
Canadian entries have inside track at Meadowlands Pace
Meadowlands Pace Past Performances for every horse compliments of TrackMaster