Columbus, OH --- The Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association held their annual awards banquet on Sunday (Jan. 26) at the Columbus Marriott Northwest, with more than 300 horsemen and their families in attendance. Hall of Famers John Campbell and Roger Huston were the co-masters of ceremonies.
|Brad Conrad photo|
|John Campbell spoke on Sunday at the OHHA annual awards banquet.|
“I’m so happy that Ohio is now on the track to success after the bleakness it suffered for so many years,” said Campbell, who also acknowledged the accomplishments of fellow horsemen David Miller and the late Sam “Chip” Noble, III.
“The VLTs are an opportunity,” Campbell stressed. “They are an opportunity, not a right, and they can be taken away at any time. This legislation has a shelf life -- just look to Ontario as an example.”
Campbell cited political alliances as paramount to ensuring success in the future for the Ohio racing industry.
“Political alliances must be massaged and maintained,” Campbell said. “As horsemen, you must constantly court political favor. (Ohio State Racing Commission Chairman) Bob Schmitz is to be commended for his commitment and passion into making the Ohio racing industry the best in the nation.”
USTA and OHHA Director Dick Brandt, Jr. mirrored Campbell’s comments, adding that, “The OHHA and our industry is lucky to have the support of the USTA, and to have the USTA headquartered in the Buckeye State.”
Campbell told the audience that ‘sooner, rather than later,’ should be the attitude of the Ohio horse racing industry.
“As horsemen, we can’t take this phase, this new influx of money, without promoting the product,” Campbell said. “The gaming companies aren’t going to promote horse racing -- they’ve got their hands full promoting their own product. So we need to do that. Our number one priority should be presenting a product that is competitive and exciting and one that offers multiple betting options.
“And that carries on over to the Little Brown Jug,” Campbell added. “Ideally, we need to increase the Jug purse to $1 million or $1.5 million. With that kind of purse, it’s going to be pretty difficult for people outside of racing or the media to ignore this race. There needs to be passion created for the Delaware racing experience -- the entire sport needs for the Jug to be a marquee event of harness racing.
“This business is built on hopes and dreams,” Campbell concluded. “We all hear the stories among each other. Trainers asking why a guy with one or two horses does it, and how does he come to the barn every morning when he only has cheap horses. I don’t know how he does it, but I know why he does it. He does it because he’s hoping and dreaming that the next horse that comes along will change his life. That the next great horse might just come his way.
“The decisions and actions made by the people in this room will have a profound effect on all the people in this state,” Campbell added.
During the evening, a silent auction to benefit the family of Chip Noble raised more than $15,000. Divisional winners were feted, and the 3-year-old trotter Final Breath was named Ohio Horse of the Year as well as sophomore Trotter of the Year for 2013.
Dick Stillings was inducted in the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame, while Virgil Morgan, Jr. and Brian Brown were both honored for their training accomplishments in 2013.