Let me tell you about a personal hero of mine. Cot Campbell turned a dream into reality half a century ago, and the sport of racing has been better off ever since.
A fun loving character from the South, Campbell is an idea man. The colorful fan of horse racing is also the father of horse racing partnerships, starting Dogwood Stable back in 1969.
The Dogwood model remained the same from start to finish. Campbell looked to buy yearlings and 2-year-olds possessing solid pedigree and conformation for reasonable prices at auctions in New York, Kentucky and Florida. They would then offer up shares in these horses for many to share in the risk and rewards of owning Thoroughbred race horses.
Campbell’s group of partners, which included more than a thousand over the years, would often have been people who never would have become racehorse owners without the Dogwood opportunity. That is the true genius of Campbell’s idea. Many of those partners went on to race horses with success in their own names after the good experience with Dogwood.
Campbell had his first stakes winner early on with Mrs. Cornwallis in 1971, but it was a few years later when I first became aware of the pioneering stable. Dominion was a very nice grass horse in the late seventies. He won numerous stakes races for Dogwood Stable, including the 1978 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga. More than a decade after that, would come their first true superstar. Summer Squall was the first horse who made me dream about managing my own race horse partnership.
A sensational juvenile, the son of Storm Bird made his way to the first Saturday in May as one of the favorites after wins in the Jim Beam and the Blue Grass Stakes. Summer Squall would not win the Kentucky Derby, but he gave his many owners an indescribable thrill that afternoon in Louisville. He also put Dogwood Stables racehorse partnerships on the map two weeks later in Baltimore.
Summer Squall’s big win in the Preakness was the highlight of a stellar racing career. All told, he won 13 of 20 lifetime races, and better than $1.8 million nearly three decades ago. Nine of his wins came in stakes races, and he finished second four other times, including a runner-up finish to Unbridled in the Kentucky Derby. He was also the first racing partnership horse to truly hit it big. Fitting that he ran under the familiar green and yellow silks of Campbell’s Dogwood Stable.
As Campbell likes to say about being a part of racehorse partnerships, “You might make money, you can write off any money you lose, and you’ll have a lot of fun. And if you don’t want the thrill, don’t do it!” It seems to me Campbell and his partners have a whole lot of fun over the years. More important than that, he has opened the door for countless fans of racing to experience the amazing feeling of watching your horse run.
As recently as a few years ago, Dogwood Stable remained an important fabric of American racing. Their Palace Malice was a top race horse in the first half of this decade, winning races like the 2013 Belmont Stakes and the 2014 Met Mile in style. Campbell, never a shrinking violet, and well into his eighties, was right there with his partners to enjoy and soak in the camaraderie of winning at the highest level.
Before merging with current partnership powerhouse Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Dogwood Stable campaigned 77 stakes winners for hundreds of different owner partners. Of course, Campbell would be the first to admit that they’ve had many more than that who never sniffed winning a stakes race. Still, it’s an impressive record for the originator of a wonderful idea. It’s an idea that has intrigued me from the moment I first learned what Dogwood was all about.
Can you imagine owning a piece of Summer Squall as he runs away from Unbridled in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown? I can, and that’s just what I plan to do with Derby Day Racing. Thank you to Cot Campbell for starting it all.
Photo of Cot Campbell (left) courtesy of the NYRA