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Campbell, Dogwood partnership enjoy another classic success
By Nicole Russo
W. Cothran “Cot” Campbell, president of the trailblazing Dogwood Stable partnership, always felt there were bright things in the future for Palace Malice, a well-regarded colt who, through a run of bad luck, entered the Belmont Stakes without a graded stakes victory to his name.
“He deserved this – I said, ‘He deserves a blue sky somewhere,’ ” Campbell said. “And luckily, that blue sky appeared at about 6:30 Saturday.”
The sun did indeed shine – literally and figuratively – for Palace Malice on June 8, as the colt rolled to victory in the Belmont Stakes on a track rated “fast” after New York’s marquee card escaped the worst of a deluge that pounded the area the night before. Days later, Campbell, 85, was still basking in the glow.
“It’s sinking in slowly,” Campbell said. “It takes a while. It’s like tossing a stone into a pool. It ripples out and out and out, and they’ll keep going out for the rest of my life.”
Like that ripple effect, the excitement of Palace Malice’s victory was shared by more individuals than the average classic winner. Campbell, who started a successful advertising agency in Atlanta during the 1960s, originated the concept of racing partnerships and syndicated horses for several years before officially launching Dogwood Farm Corp. in 1973. By pioneering the now-popular plan of group ownership, he opened the door for more people to participate in Thoroughbred racing at a reasonable cost.
Dogwood’s partners in Palace Malice are Carl Myers of Montvale, N.J.; Paul Oreffice of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Paradise Valley, Ariz.; Charlie Pigg of Morton, Ill.; Mike Schneider of Aiken, S.C.; and Margaret Smith of New York City.
“I’m very proud and delighted,” Campbell said of sharing the victory with that group. “When you bring people into racing, it’s difficult when you’re faced with disappointment and horses that are not successful. So, when you come across a good one and you do accomplish something ... I’m delighted for the people. I have great partners. They deserve good stuff.”
The ripple effect could be seen continuing in Campbell’s adopted town of Aiken, a vibrant, equine-oriented community where Dogwood is headquartered.
“It seems to have been a popular victory,” Campbell said. “I’ve never gotten so many phone calls and emails. In Aiken, the airport was festooned with green and yellow (the colors of Dogwood’s silks). At every cross-section in town, there were green and yellow balloons, all the way to my house.
“There were people dancing in the streets,” he added. “They knew when the plane was coming in. I had made a comment that [the townspeople] would be dancing in the streets, and indeed, they were. It meant a lot to this town – it’s such a horse town.”
Dogwood purchased Palace Malice from Niall Brennan, agent, for $200,000 out of the 2012 Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training. The colt, a $25,000 yearling at the prior fall’s Keeneland September sale, was on Campbell’s list of horses to look at because he was from the first crop of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.
“I had the Curlins to look at,” Campbell said. “When I got to the Keeneland barn, I saw a big, good-looking bay horse. I loved the profile – there was nothing really wrong with him. He worked well (breezing a furlong in 10.20 seconds) and wasn’t life or death to do it. There wasn’t someone slashing and beating. He was well within himself, and I thought he was the kind of horse not particularly inclined to present himself well at a 2-year-old sale. He was big, and his future was probably well ahead – it wasn’t going to be in June. They hadn’t paid much for him as a yearling, and I didn’t know why. There was nothing wrong with him. He vetted well.”
Palace Malice made his first start for Dogwood last July 5 at Belmont and was second, beaten a half-length. The following month, he was sent away as the heavy favorite in a Saratoga maiden race and won by 3 1/2 lengths, validating the high opinions many had of him.
“He has always touted himself as a good horse, from the time he started training at 2,” Campbell said. “We had offers to sell him – attractive offers – before he ever raced . . . [But] he has not been the luckiest horse in the world.”
Indeed, Palace Malice would not visit the winner’s circle in his next five starts, spanning more than 10 months. The colt bucked his shins and was turned out for the remainder of his juvenile season, returning to finish second in an allowance race in January at Gulfstream, and he followed that with a good third in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds.
He was an unlucky seventh in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby after being blocked by several horses in early stretch but earned enough points for the Kentucky Derby in his next start, in which he was beaten a neck by the late-closing Java’s War in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland.
Outfitted with blinkers for the first time in the Kentucky Derby – a move to focus the colt that backfired – Palace Malice shot to the lead and rattled off six furlongs in 1:09.80 over the sloppy track before retreating and finishing 12th.
“His record could be a lot better than it is,” Campbell said. “He was good enough to win the Louisiana Derby, and certainly, he had every chance in the Kentucky Derby, but that three-quarters was suicidal. That was not the plan, of course, and it was no one’s fault. And he fought on as best he could. He’s a game, classy horse.”
Palace Malice trained strongly for the Belmont Stakes, indicating that his fortunes were changing, and with blinkers removed, the colt delivered the operation its second victory in a Triple Crown event. Previous classic success came with Summer Squall, who finished second to Unbridled in the 1990 Kentucky Derby before winning the Preakness Stakes. The Dogwood color-bearer won nine stakes, including two Grade 1s.
Dogwood’s only prior Belmont starter was Impeachment, who finished fifth in 2000. That colt, like Palace Malice, was trained by Todd Pletcher, a former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas who went out on his own in 1995. Campbell was among Pletcher’s first high-end clients, sending him horses in 1996.
“Really, to me, this win was for Mr. Campbell,” Pletcher said. “He gave me an opportunity when no one knew who I was, and I didn’t have any horses. He’s been a supporter of me basically from the very beginning. We’ve had a long, terrific relationship. He’s been very, very good to me.”
In addition to its two classic winners, Dogwood has campaigned two Eclipse Award winners: 1996 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Storm Song, a daughter of Summer Squall, and 1987 champion steeplechaser Inlander.
A third Eclipse statue was awarded to Campbell himself last year, as he was honored with the 2011 Eclipse Award of Merit for outstanding contributions to Thoroughbred racing. The award was the latest in a long line of honors for the owner, who received the John W. Galbreath Award for entrepreneurial excellence and leadership, the Race Track Industry Program’s Clay Puett Award for outstanding contributions, and was the 2004 honored guest of the Thoroughbred Club of America. He was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
Palace Malice’s Belmont victory came in the twilight of Campbell’s career, as he has scaled back his operation. However, with Palace Malice on the track – and the hunt for the 3-year-old title very much wide open – don’t expect the owner to ride off into the sunset anytime soon.
“I don’t think [winning the Belmont] will accelerate my retirement,” Campbell said. “I’ll put it that way. And I have cut back. We used to carry 65 horses. We’ve got 30, 35 now, and I’m going to just play it as it comes along. I enjoy what I do. God knows I’ve had the most wonderful life a human being could have, and this is a great chapter in it.”
President: W. Cothran “Cot” Campbell
Born: Sept. 27, 1927
Headquarters: Aiken, S.C.
Key industry involvement (Campbell): Member of The Jockey Club, member of Thoroughbred Club of America, founding member of National Thoroughbred Association, chairman of Sales Integrity Task Force, former treasurer of Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, founder and past president of Georgia Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, advisory board of trustees for the National Museum of Racing, co-founder of Atlanta Steeplechase
Honors/achievements (Campbell): John W. Galbreath Award (1992), leading owner at Saratoga meet (1994), Clay Puett Award (2003), Thoroughbred Club of America honored guest (2004), South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame induction (2007), Eclipse Award of Merit (2011)
Dogwood’s Eclipse Award winners: Inlander (1987 steeplechaser), Storm Song (1996 2yo filly)
Dogwood’s classic winners: Palace Malice (2013 Belmont), Summer Squall (1990 Preakness)
Other notable horses raced by Dogwood: Aikenite, Cotto n Blossom, Distilled, Dominion, Domynsky, Drum Major, Limehouse, Mrs. Cornwallis, Nassipour, Smok’n Frolic, Southjet, Trippi, Vicarage, Wallenda, Windsor Castle