Lachance, Campbell set for one last battle
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"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).
"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. (Clinton)