by Dean Hoffman
Forrest Gump, the lead character in the movie of the same name, is famous for the line, “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”
Driver John Campbell must have felt a lot like Forrest Gump when he took Mack Lobell to the track. He never knew what he was going to get. When Mack wanted to race, he was virtually unbeatable. When Mack didn’t feel like racing, you never knew what was going to happen.
In 1987 Mack took the trotting world by storm. He won the Yonkers Trot, first leg of the Triple Crown, with ease, and then added the Hambletonian, the second leg. His victory was the fastest ever in the Hambletonian, but, showing his unpredictability, Mack broke stride soon after hitting the wire.
Mack then went to the Illinois State Fair where he trotted the fastest mile in history by looping the track in 1:52.1. An easy win at the Indiana State Fair followed.
But Mack decided to take the day off when he raced in the World Trotting Derby as Napoletano beat him in consecutive heats.
Next came a race in which Mack narrowly won at Delaware, Ohio over Spotlite Lobell. He was hard-pressed to beat a horse that he normally crushed.
Still, Mack was expected to sweep the third and final leg of the Triple Crown of trotting by winning the Kentucky Futurity, but, once again, Napoletano went past Mack in the stretch to win.
Now Mack seemed mortal. Napoletano had defeated him in the World Trotting Derby and the Kentucky Futurity. Was the late season momentum in Napoletano’s favor?
Campbell wasted no time in sending Mack on a mission to control the race. He set torrid fractions while Napoletano tried to weave his way through traffic.
Napoletano made a three-wide move after a half-mile in an attempt to catch Mack Lobell,but skipped offstride briefly.
It made no difference. On this memorable Breeders Crown night, Mack was simply not going to be caught. He led by eight lengths entering the homestretch and continued to draw away to win by 12-3/4 lengths in an absolutely astonishing world record time of 1:54.1.
This Breeders Crown wasn’t a race as much as it was an exhibition of Mack Lobell’s greatness. And anyone who saw it will never forget this race.