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Legendary Lachance will battle Campbell one last time
Monday, July 17, 2017 - from Clinton Raceway

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Clinton, ON --- Harness driver Mike Lachance said he’s raced against fellow Hall of Famer John Campbell more times than anyone in the sport’s history. So, it’s fitting Lachance will race against Campbell one last time on July 30 in the Legends Day Trot at Clinton Raceway.

“The last 25 years, his locker was next to mine at the Meadowlands, so we dressed next to each other every night for 25 years,” Lachance said of Campbell, who is officially retiring from driving after the Legends Day Trot. “If you count everything up, I don’t think there is anyone who drove more races against John than me. I was on Grand Circuit with John for 30 years.”

USTA/Ed Keys photo
Mike Lachance will race on July 30 in the Legends Day Trot at Clinton Raceway.

Over a 50-year career that landed him in both the Canadian and U.S. Hall of Fame, Lachance, 66, won 10,422 races and earned $190 million in purses, currently ranking him fourth all-time on a list led by Campbell with just over $300 million. The two legends both hail from great racing families -- Campbell from Ontario and Lachance from Quebec -- and along the way, they had some epic on-track battles, but remained professionals and mutual admirers off the track.

“We campaigned great horses against each other -- Western Ideal and Dragon Again. Self Possessed and Angus Hall, Bettor's Delight and Real Desire -- and I could name 10 more and we were first and second every night, beating each other,” Lachance said. “(Campbell is) a guy that was very, very disciplined and I admired that from him. On the road, he always wanted to pay. It was always a fight with him. He’s a very good sport and good guy to go along with. He always tried to be helpful with planning, always the first to organize things. He is a very good businessman.”

Legends Day will also mark the final career drive for The Magic Man, Bill O’Donnell, a winner of $90 million with 5,445 wins to his credit. Lachance, who is essentially retired from driving except for special events, said he’s excited to be part of what promises to be a historic day.

“I didn’t go to the Hall of Fame race at Goshen this year, and didn’t go the last couple of years, but this year my goal was to go to Clinton,” Lachance said. “It’s going to be John’s last drive, O’Donnell’s last drive…I’ve had so many good times with those guys. Great, great, great talent there. For me, it’s just fun...I got along really, really well with O’Donnell. We had fun on the road together. Those two guys were great to me.”

In the C$15,000 Legends Day Trot, Campbell, O’Donnell and Lachance will also be taking on Steve Condren (6,850 wins and $106 million), Ron Waples (6,923 wins, $74 million), David Miller (12,201 wins, $216 million), Dave Wall (7,201, $58 million) and Doug Brown (8,437, $87 million).

The race is part of the ninth edition of the track’s biennial Legends Day, which is raising money for the Clinton Public Hospital Foundation.

Combined, the eight legends have earned more than $1.15 billion and won nearly 69,000 races.

Fellow legends Bud Fritz and 93-year-old Keith Waples -- both of whom are retired from driving -- will also be on hand for the autograph session.

“I was at Richelieu Park in the middle of the ‘60s and Ronnie (Waples) was working for Keith (Waples). I was working for (my brother) Gilles (Lachance), at 13 or 14 years old. I’ve known those people all my life. I idolized Keith my whole life and I still do,” Lachance said. “We say ‘this guy is special or that guy is special or he’s one-in-a-million’. For me, I say there will never be one like Keith Waples -- ever -- Keith is in a class by his own. That guy could do everything -- great businessman, great, great driver, great horseman, great trainer and a great guy to get along with…a man of his word. He just has so many things going for him.

“I saw him in his prime. I drove against him and he taught me a lesson without even saying anything to me by the way he was doing things in the race. The first time I was in a photo with him at the wire, I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. It’s the little things like that. You know, when you idolize somebody you should never get to know him, but with Keith Waples even if you want to know more about him, you’re going to like him more. He’s a very special person.”

Lachance was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1993 and the U.S. Hall of Fame in 1996.

The second youngest of eight children born to Ge´de´on and Francoise Lachance, Mike’s earliest memories are of an unselfish father who shared everything with his children -- most of all, his profound love of horses.

I remember my father coming to the house and picking me up in the wintertime and we were going in the sleigh with the horses and he would stop on the side of the road and he would give me his pocket knife and say, ‘Just cut a little branch there.’ When we were coming back home with the horses he used to teach me to touch them (with the branch) to make them go faster,” Mike said in 2003 for a feature in The Canadian Sportsman magazine. “I was five, six years old and I was getting all the snow in my face. I’ll never forget those things. Wherever he went he would always bring me along with him.”

A few years later, Ge´de´on, who first adopted the family’s red, white and black colors, encouraged Mike to drive the family’s horses on the fair circuit.

“I was 13 years old,” Mike said. “Every Sunday he was supposed to drive, but just before the race, when it came time, he’d say, ‘You’re going to drive. Why don’t you try it.’”

Before long, Mike left home to work with the horses for his older brother, Gilles, a Canadian Hall of Famer in his own right.

In 1967, when Mike was 17, he made his first pari-mutuel start driving a horse for Gilles in Quebec City. Mike remembers getting parked in that first start when he left hard from an outside post, but soon figured out how to consistently find the winner’s circle.

A move to the smaller ovals in New York State followed, and Mike piled up the wins, but he truly made his mark in the sport in the late 1980s after moving to the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey.

From 1996 through 2002, Iron Mike drove the winners of more than $8 million each year. In that same span, he won the Hambletonian four times (Victory Dream, Continentalvictory, Self Possessed and Amigo Hall).

He has won virtually every major stakes race in the sport, including the Little Brown Jug five times (B J Scoot, Goalie Jeff, Magical Mike, Western Dreamer and Bettor's Delight), the North America Cup three times (Safely Kept, Straight Path and Bettor's Delight), the Meadowlands Pace twice (Matt's Scooter and Allamerican Theory) and the Breeders Crown 27 times.

Bettor's Delight, Matt's Scooter and Camluck are all members of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

“The thing that I’m the most proud of is to be around for so long. I started in the late '60s in Quebec City and was always on top of the drivers’ list for years after. I was around for a long time, but I was lucky too -- no big accidents or other things to keep me off the track and I’m really thankful for that,” Lachance said.

For more information about Legends Day, please visit www.clintonraceway.com.


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