The Best In The Bike To Balmoral

Published: November 6, 2013 11:23 am EST

Balmoral Park will not only play host to some of the best horses in North America on Saturday, November 9 for the American National Stakes, but some of the sport’s leading reinsman will also be in Crete, Illinois to steer the cream of the crop over the one-mile oval.

A pair of $200-million men – Hall of Famers John Campbell and Ron Pierce – are slated to drive. This pair will reach half a billion combined in purse earnings – that’s right – half a billion dollars, in 2014.

While many of Campbell’s accomplishments in the sport came when he was in his 30s and 40s, every single one of Pierce’s Triple Crown or Breeders Crown triumphs – 41 total – have all come after his 35th birthday. Pierce, who trailed Campbell for many years, surpassed $200-million in career earnings while competing at Lexington’s famed Red Mile this September.

Pierce is also the oldest driver to record a driving triple in Breeders Crown Finals, when he did so a few weeks ago at Pocono Downs, at age 57. He was the first driver to win with a two-year-old in 1:50, when he steered Badlands Hanover to a 1:50 clocking in the 1998 Breeders Crown at Colonial Downs. He was also the only driver to defeat world champ Somebeachsomewhere, when he piloted Art Official to victory in the 2008 Meadowlands Pace.

Pierce is also the only driver to go five straight seasons winning either the Meadowlands Pace (2008, 2009, 2001) or the Hambletonian (2007, 2010) – two of the sport’s greatest events – and just missed becoming the only driver in history to win the Hambletonian from Post 10 in 2002 with Like A Prayer, who finished a neck back of the winning Chip Chip Hooray. Pierce also was the driver behind the sport’s last female Horse of the Year, Rainbow Blue (2004).

Campbell, 58, was the youngest person ever inducted into harness racing’ s Hall of Fame in 1990, and his dominance and presence in racing in untouchable, as he at the top of nearly every statistical list kept by the USTA. He’s driven the winners of more than $3-million annually every year since 1982, except for 2011, when he drove the winners of $2.5-million. He currently has $284-million in career purse earnings and 10,613 lifetime wins to his credit.

Campbell is the leading driver of Breeders Crown winners with 43 to his credit and has won six Hambletonians, three Hambletonian Oaks, six Kentucky Futurities, three Little Brown Jugs, and Sweden’s famed Elitloppe, among his endless list of accomplishments.

Campbell and Pierce are also the two winningest drivers in Breeders Crown history with 29 victories each, while Mike Lachance – who will also be racing at Balmoral Saturday - is in third with 27 Breeders Crown titles to his credit.

Speaking of Breeders Crown triumphs, for the first time in history, the top-five ranking North American drivers won every Breeders Crown Final contested this year, on October 19 at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania. Pierce, Tim Tetrick, and Yannick Gingras each won three ‘Crowns,’ while David Miller notched two Crowns and Brian Sears a single Crown.

With his lone 2013 Breeders Crown victory, Sears, who will also be racing at Balmoral Saturday, extended his streak of winning at least one Breeders Crown race now for 11 straight years. John Campbell, to no surprise, holds the record at 15 years (1984-1988).

Ten of Sears’ 24 Breeders Crown wins (all since 2003) have come with three-year-old trotters (five fillies and five colts each). He has driven all of trainer Trond Smedshammer’s eight Breeders Crown winners, and is the only driver in history to have won the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks in the same year, twice – in 2009 and 2013.

Yannick Gingras (who will be racing at Balmoral on Saturday) had just one Breeders Crown victory prior to his start in the classic events in 2012. That lone win, however, came with Southwind Serena in 2008 in the Three-Year-Old Filly Trot, when he steered her to win and returned $102.80 on a two-dollar Win ticket. Gingras, 34, is nearly $7-million ahead of Campbell in career earnings at the same age.

Gingras also steered the 2012 American National three-year-old filly trot winner Maven to a 1:54.3 clocking at Balmoral last year, and had multiple ‘Am-Nat’ victories in 2011 when he piloted Princess Cruiser to win the two-year-old filly pace in 1:56.1; Looking Hanover to win the aged trot in 1:56; and Foiled Again to win the aged pace in 1:51.4.

Mike Lachance, 62, who’ll be piloting Creatine in the American National for three-year-old colt trotters, just finished second with the colt at the Breeders Crown, and won the Kentucky Futurity at the Red Mile with the Bob Stewart-trained sophomore in September.

Lachance was the first driver to win six races on a day card and six races that same night, when he did so at Yonkers Raceway on June 23, 1987. One year later, in 1988, he scored his 5,000th career victory at the Meadowlands Racetrack, with Instrument Landing.

Lachance also became the first driver in history to win a Breeders Crown race at age 55 or older when he won three in 2006 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. He won one Hambletonian (with Dream Victory in 1994) before going into the Hall of Fame in 1995, and three after going in (with Continentalvictory in 1996; Self Possessed in 1999 and Amigo Hall in 2003) and is the last driver to win the Hambletonian with a female, the aforementioned Continentalvictory.

Lachance has won eight American Nationals: first in 1988 with Matts Scooter in 1:55.2 in the Three-Year-Old Colt Pace; then in 1992 with Baltic Striker in 1:57.3 in the Three-Year-Old Colt Trot and with Imperfection in 1:59.3 in the Three-Year-Old Filly Trot and with Crouch in 1:54.4 in the Three-Year-Old Colt Pace; in 1995 with Divine Victory in 1:57.2 in the Three-Year-Old Filly Trot; in 1999 with Self Possessed in 1:53 in the Three-Year-Old Colt Trot; in 2004 with Cantab Hall in 1:55 in the Three-Year-Old Colt Trot; and in 2009 with Lanson in 1:53.4 in the Aged Trot.

Ohio native David Miller, 48, is the fourth leading money winning driver in the sport’s history and has nearly 11,000 career victories. He is the only driver in history with eleven $10-million seasons and is the only driver to ever have a Triple Crown and Breeders Crown winner in the same season, in 2003 with No Pan Intended. He won the first ever Breeders Crown million-dollar event, with the mighty trotter Magician in 2000.

This year he’s steered his two fastest career drives: with Pet Rock and Shebestingin, who both paced in 1:47, and was elected into harness racing’s national Hall of Fame this year as well. He was named Driver of the Year in 2003 and is a three-time winner of the Little Brown Jug. He is also one of only two drivers to have won the Jug and its sister event, the Jugette, the same year. His ranks among the top five Breeders Crown winning reinsmen, with $8.5-million in Crown earnings.

Tim Tetrick needs no introduction to Illinois racing fans. This Prairie State native has 13 Breeders Crown wins under his belt with only a few weeks away from his 32nd birthday (November 22). This is the seventh straight year he’ll sit atop the national standings in earnings (only Billy Haughton has ever gone longer; eight years – from 1952 to 1959).

Tetrick has the distinction of being the youngest member of harness racing’s $100-million-earning club, and is the only driver to win a million-dollar race on a half-mile track – when he steered Southwind Lynx to win the 2007 Art Rooney at Yonkers. He’s the only driver in history to win the Meadowlands Pace twice in his first four attempts, and if Captaintreacherous is named Horse of the Year it will be the first time in 28 years that a driver has won that award back-to-back with a trotter and then with a pacer (last year he was the driver on the Linda Toscano-trained Chapter Seven). Hall of Famer Bill O’Donnell accomplished that feat in 1984 and 1985 with Fancy Crown and the great Nihilator.