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Horse Racing’s Pillar: Cot Campbell receives highest honor

August 4, 2018

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Before an on-site crowd of nearly 500 with more streaming the ceremonies on their home and work computers, Aiken’s Cot Campbell said he was “flabbergasted” to be inducted into thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame on a humid Friday morning as one of the sport’s “Pillars of the Turf.”

The 90-year-old received a standing ovation at the beginning and again at the end of his 5½-minute acceptance speech, considerably pithier than many inductees of the past.

On hand for the ceremony were Hall of Fame trainers Roger Attfield, Shug McGaughey, Bill Mott, Carl Nafzger, Jonathan Sheppard and Nick Zito, as well as jockeys Javier Castellano, Earlie Fires, Sandy Hawley and Chris McCarron.

Young horses out of their stalls and strolling the grounds as they await Fasig-Tipton’s annual yearling sale Monday and Tuesday made a fitting backdrop for Campbell’s induction, which was held on a stage above the auction ring and inside the sales pavilion, about a quarter-mile from the Saratoga Race Course gates.

Accompanied to the ceremony by Anne, his wife of 59 years, he handled the stairs and the walk to the podium solo and with aplomb and, after an introduction detailing the creation of the racehorse-ownership template that became Dogwood Stable, Campbell told the crowd that, since its inception in 1969, more than 1,200 people became thoroughbred owners through their shares in the syndicate.

Bob Curran, a voting member of the Pillars of the Turf committee and retired vice president of communications with The Jockey Club, noted that fact while telling the Aiken Standard, “His infectious enthusiasm brought great joy to those who participated in the partnerships, regardless of how fast their horses ran in any given race. He promoted their involvement, especially through the Dogwood Stable newsletter and the eagerly anticipated photo diary he and Anne published following each Saratoga meet.”

Dogwood shareholders joined in on the successes of 79 stakes winners, seven of whom earned more than $1 million. Dogwood horses contended in 13 Triple Crown races, with Summer Squall (1990 Preakness) and Palace Malace (2013 Belmont) reaching the winner’s circle.

Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association, told the Standard,“Cot Campbell exemplifies the term ‘Southern gentleman,’ and he has represented himself for nearly a half-century with the highest levels of class and distinction. His impact and contributions to the industry are enduring and will never be forgotten.”

Mentioning that there were 12 pillars of the turf inducted Friday, and that there had already been 12 such honorees in the Hall of Fame, Campbell told Friday’s assemblage that he was the only living member of the 24, adding “You may not be very interested in that, but I am.”

The line drew laughs from all in the crowd, especially his wife.

His years at the Dogwood helm, he said, were “exciting, adventurous, glamorous, bizarre and tumultuous,” and he said that getting through them required Anne’s steadying hand.

Campbell eased into semi-retirement in 2011. The transition, Anne told the Standard as her husband accepted well wishes, “has been hard on him, but we still have one horse. All you need is one.”

Mary Jane Howell, who worked as Dogwood’s chief publicist, said, “They made a great team. Cot was always a great businessman and Anne was always gracious and lovely.”

This honor is only the most recent bestowed upon Campbell, who also received an Eclipse Award of Merit in 2012 and was the honored guest of the Thoroughbred Club of America in 2004. In turn, the Campbells are noted within the industry as creators of the Dominion Award, an annual recognition of an unsung hero in the racing industry. The award, named after one of Dogwood’s first and finest stakes winners, carried a bronze statue of the racehorse as well as a $5,000 check.

Howell, who oversaw the program, said the recipients typically turned the check over to whatever charity they were involved in.

Anne Campbell, whose maiden name was “Dupree,” has a namesake 3-year-old filly who, as timing would have it, ran a few hours after Friday’s induction in Saratoga’s seventh race, which was named in honor of her husband and fellow inductee Penney Chenery, owner of Secretariat and Riva Ridge.

Anne Dupree finished in third.

Other inductees as Pillars of the Turf on Friday were a trio of Whitneys, ultra-successful owners of the 20th and 19th centuries who extensively used Aiken as a lay-up base during the winter months: Williams Collins Whitney, his son Harry Payne Whitney and his grandson Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney.

Joining them were Charles Strub and Elias “Lucky” Baldwin, owners of Santa Anita in different eras; Darby Dan Farm owner John Galbreath, and owner-breeders August Belmont, Hal Price Headley and Arthur B. Hancock of Claiborne Farm.

The good filly Heavenly Prize was the only modern-day racehorse to be inducted. The 19th century racehorse Preakness and trainer William Lakeland from the same era were elected by the “Historic Review” committee.

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