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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

After being slowed by two bouts with sickness, Cool Papa Bell appears to be getting back up to speed in time for Saturday’s $410,250 E.T. Gerry Jr. Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters at The Meadowlands.

Cool Papa Bell, who won the 2022 Hambletonian Stakes for 3-year-olds at the Big M, will face eight foes over a distance of 1-1/8 miles in the Maturity. The gelding is trained by Jim Campbell, who won the 2019 Maturity with Crystal Fashion and last week was named a nominee for the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

The only Hambo champ to return and win the Maturity since it began in 2014 is Marion Marauder, who captured the 2016 Hambletonian on his way to sweeping the Trotting Triple Crown and Trotter of the Year honors. Two Hambletonian Oaks winners have won the Maturity: Ariana G in 2018 and Bella Bellini last year.

Cool Papa Bell enters the Hambletonian Maturity off a third-place finish in the Graduate Series Open Trot final this past Saturday at The Meadowlands. Leaving from post eight, he was sixth with a quarter-mile to go but came home in a race-best :26.2 to hit the board in his third start of the season. He had been scratched sick from the previous leg of the Graduate on June 24.

“It really hurt him missing that previous leg because he needed that race to kind of get himself back into race condition, so I was happy with the effort he put in the other night,” said Campbell, who trains Cool Papa Bell for owner Runthetable Stables. “He’s just had some bad luck this year, he’s gotten sick twice on us when he was ready to go, but he’s the type of horse that will always give you everything he’s got.”

Cool Papa Bell has hit the board in 18 of 26 career races, winning nine and earning $1.06 million. He won the Hambletonian at record odds of 52-1, beating Joviality S by three-quarters of a length as he rallied from eighth at the half-mile point. At the end of the season, he was named the 2022 Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old male trotter.

“My son and wife and I have watched the race probably a hundred times and it never gets old,” Campbell said about the Hambletonian. “If I happen to see a picture from that day (which also included winning the Hambletonian Oaks with Fashion Schooner), I’ll stop and think back to it. It was just an unbelievable day.”

Cool Papa Bell will start the Hambletonian Maturity from post one with driver Todd McCarthy and is the 6-1 second choice on the morning line behind 1-5 favorite Jiggy Jog S, who is unbeaten in four races this season and ranked No. 1 in the sport’s most recent Top 10 poll after her victory by 4-1/4 lengths in 1:50.3 in the Graduate final. Jiggy Jog S finished fourth in last year’s Hambletonian.

“Obviously, Jiggy Jog stands out, but I think there will be a lot of people that come to race when you go for that kind of money,” Campbell said. “You just have to hope the trip works out in your favor. There is a little extra distance, so that could change the tactics as well. I don’t see a reason (Cool Papa Bell) wouldn’t like the distance. He likes to have a target and to close on the end, so I kind of think it should help him.”

As for his Hall of Fame nomination, Campbell said he was thankful to be on the ballot for induction. His brother, John, is already a member of the Hall of Fame.

“It’s a big honor,” Campbell said. “I’m definitely well inside the eighth-pole of my career, so it would be very special to have that honor. My mother is still alive, and she would be very proud to see her two sons in the Hall of Fame. And I know my dad is looking down and would be extremely proud too.”

Saturday’s card also includes the Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds, the William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers, Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, and two divisions each of the Stanley Dancer Memorial and Delvin Miller Memorial for 3-year-old male and female trotters.

For more on the Meadowlands Pace, click here for a story on Nancy Takter’s three finalists and here for a story on Tony Alagna’s pair.

Following is a brief look at the remainder of the stakes card:

Ruthless Hanover and Abuckabett Hanover, who finished 1-2 in the Dave Brower Memorial on July 1, meet again in the $444,000 William R. Haughton Memorial. Abuckabett Hanover is the 3-1 morning-line favorite, with Ruthless Hanover at 7-2 and Bythemissal (undefeated in three races this year before being sidelined in May) at 4-1.

Canadian-based Sylvia Hanover makes her first trip to the U.S. for the $169,000 Mistletoe Shalee. The filly, a Dan Patch and O’Brien awards winner at age 2, has 11 victories and a second in 12 lifetime starts and heads to Saturday’s race off a win in the Fan Hanover Stakes at Woodbine Mohawk Park. She is the 9-5 favorite.

Silver Label and Grace Hill, who were 1-2 in the Perfect Sting on July 1 at the Big M, return for the $159,000 Dorothy Haughton Memorial. Grace Hill, who saw an eight-race win streak snapped in the Perfect Sting, is the 2-1 favorite. Silver Label, who has finished no worse than second in eight of nine starts this year, winning five, is 5-2. Test Of Faith, the 2021 Horse of the Year, is 4-1 in her second race of the season.

New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Air Power is the 7-5 favorite in the first $138,500 Dancer Memorial division, followed by 2022 Mohawk Million winner Oh Well at 3-1 and Breeders Crown winner Gaines Hanover at 4-1. In the second division, Tactical Approach is the 3-1 favorite ahead of Celebrity Bambino at 7-2 and Once In A Lifetime at 4-1.

In the first $105,250 Miller Memorial division, New York New York Mile winner Secret Volo is the 5-2 favorite over Reynolds Memorial division winner Quick Stop at 3-1. In the second division, Bond is the 4-5 favorite. She has been no worse than second in 12 career races, winning 10, including all three of her starts this year.

Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT). Free TrackMaster past performances for the Big M can be found here.

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