by Bob Heyden
Let’s take a look back at the very first Meadowlands Pace in 1977 with a dozen notes of interest:
1. The inaugural pace was held on a Tuesday night (July 12, 1977).
2. Going into Pace Night, the Meadowlands track record for sophomore pacing colts was 1:55.1 set by Oil Burner on Sept. 6, 1976. The overall track mark was 1:54.3 by Shadyside Trixie. Both were lowered in the Pace elims by B Gs Bunny to 1:54.
3. It was a 10-race card with an 8 p.m. post, seven of 10 winners paid between 4-1 and 5-1, 11 drivers in the two elims went on to the Hall Of Fame. The two longest-priced horses were Keystone Banshee with Peter Haughton at 77-1 (eighth) and Stan Banks drove Thorpe Messenger to a fifth and qualifying spot at 87-1 and then was sixth in the final at 81-1 — both times the longest price.
4. Pace Night, the winning drivers were Ed Lohmeyer with Lincolns Streak $11.00; Fortune Jim with Jim Doherty $8.20; Troubador Chip with Buddy Gilmour $11.00; Crash won the first Pace elim for Billy Haughton at a healthy $32.80; B Gs Bunny paid $12.60 in his world record 1:54 flat (with former all-age track record holder Jade Prince 1:54.1 second); Hurricane Star for 22-year-old Charlie Connor, Jr. returned $12.00; Mannart Kerry for Buddy again $11.60; Law Breaker for Ted Wing at $6.80 as the evening’s only favorite who won; Escort took the final of the Meadowlands Pace with a payout of $10.20 (2nd in elim); and White Richelieu took the final race of the night at $10.60 for Mike Gagliardi.
Escort (shown with trainer/driver Carl LeCause) won the inaugural Meadowlands Pace in 1977.
5. Bill Drummond found that fancy credentials only went so far in the very first edition. His 18-for-21 overall best record going in didn’t amount to a lot when he finished seventh and didn’t advance to the $425,000 final.
6. The name John Campbell appeared in the program in 1977 — even though it was five months prior to his arrival to the Big M. He had driven a colt named River Captain at Detroit Race Course who did not qualify to the 12-horse Pace final among the 24 that tried. He paced in 1:56.4 for Lester Pullen. Campbell had driven that colt to victory for a $48,000 purse just 31 days or three starts prior. He raced for Frank Nakagawa of London, ON.
7. The two Pace favorites BOTH came from the Kopas barn and both started from the second tier — Nat Lobell-4th at 2.50-1 and Jade Prince second at 3.60-1.
8. Big Towner was able to make the final but brought up the rear. He was the most successful commercial sire at well over $100 million later. Governor Skipper won the division title that year for 3yocp, but was next to last in his elimination.
9. For Billy Haughton, who upset with Crash, the fractions looked quite similar to those the very next year when he won the Pace final with Falcon Almahurst. Crash — :28, :56.1, 1:25.3, 1:55.1 / Falcon Almahurst — :28.1 :56 1:25 1:55.1.
10. Exactas in the elims: $176.20 for Crash and Escort and $54.40 for B Gs Bunny and Jade Prince. There was no exotic wagering in the final.
11. Six of the nine drivers in the final (B Gs Bunny scratched and never raced again) never competed in another Meadowlands Pace final.
12. The best for last. In the first five editions of the Meadowlands Pace, the winning driver never ever won a single Meadowlands Pace elimination:
40th anniversary of Campbell’s first million-dollar drive
Next Saturday, July 17 marks the 40th anniversary of John Campbell’s first million-dollar drive. In 1981, he was fourth with Slapstick in the Meadowlands Pace won by Conquered. Campbell was sent off at 5-1 driving for Lee Broglio.
Genghis Khan was fifth in the 1979 Meadowlands Pace won by Sonsam in 1:53.2.
It would be three years to his record-breaking earnings season of 1982 when he banked over $550,000 and was clearly the top older pacer in the sport.
Remembering Andrea Chadwick
Women have won the last two editions of the Meadowlands Pace — Nancy Takter with Tall Dark Stranger and Linda Toscano with Best In Show. But it was Andrea Chadwick in 1992 who got the ball rolling in the Meadowlands Pace with Lord Willing. Though the chestnut finished eighth, it was the very first time a female trainer tried it versus the boys. The son of Energy Burner was 3rd in his elimination at 72-1, then was sent off 22-1 in the $1 million final. Allen Cullen drove. (Carlsbad Cam won that year).
From 1980-1990 every winning driver in the Meadowlands Pace was born in Canada: Clint Galbraith, Dr. John Hayes, Jr., John Campbell twice, Ron Waples, Buddy Gilmour twice, Bill O’Donnell, Trevor Ritchie, Mike Lachance and Ray Remmen.