Campbell: ‘Racetracker’ Salty Roberts Was Racing’s True Unsung Hero

by | 04.13.2017 | 4:13pm
Salty Roberts (left), with wife Dallas and Dan Perlsweig at Keeneland (Photo courtesy of Steve Montemarano)

Salty Roberts died a week ago, and perhaps his death did not get quite the notice his life deserved.

To begin with – good or bad – he was the very definition of a “racetracker.”

But more to the point, he created and founded the Race Track Chaplaincy, for which he deserved enormous credit. He did this while operating as a reformed alcoholic, parking cars in the afternoon and galloping horses in the morning. Today there are 43 chaplaincies at 36 tracks and training centers across America.

Salty picked up a few sponsors along the way, but based on the outlook in the late 60s, he was a 100-1 shot to get such a project going. No one could knock the idea of a Race Track Chaplaincy, but the idea hardly reeked of pizzazz in an industry where participants were primarily seeking pizzazz.

I first encountered Salty Roberts at Monmouth Park 40 years ago. He and a man named Sterling (Fancy Pants) Antifantis were attendants in the owner-trainer parking lot. Salty truly was the very definition of “hustle.”

At that point, he had embraced Christianity with the same verve he had applied to raising hell in his early life. In both disciplines, he was all out, and then some. His wonderful, authentic countenance looked like 40 miles of bad road, attesting to his drinking days; and no matter the situation, at the slightest provocation he would drop and deliver a very comprehensive prayer, in person; and Salty may have been even more thorough with a captive audience on the telephone.

In 1993, Dogwood Stable created the Dogwood Dominion Award. It was designed to honor an unsung hero in the sport/industry of Thoroughbred racing. Three judges – Pat Day, Mack Miller and Anne Campbell – would pick a winner and he or she would receive $5,000, a bronze of the Dogwood campaigner Dominion (an equine version of what the award was all about) and recognition at a rather fancy luncheon at the Reading Room at Saratoga. We did that for 17 years.

Salty was a slam dunk for the first one. There were about 100 on hand, including his great wife Dallas. I talked about Salty, Salty talked, cried, and prayed.

And soon after, Salty Roberts took his five grand and went to England and spent it starting a race course chaplaincy in that country.

Horace W. (Salty) Roberts was a pretty important man in the history of Thoroughbred racing.

Cot Campbell has brought more than 1,200 individuals into racing since the creation of the original racing partnership, Dogwood Stable, in 1969. Campbell went into “semi-retirement” in 2011.

  • Tinky

    Thanks Cot, and though I am not religious, Amen!

  • Larry Sterne

    the very fabric of racing. w/o the backside working their tails off racing would be no where in spite of all the owners and money they have Salty and those after him deserve the same first class support that are given the horses so that they may carry on their misson of giving emotional, spiritual, and monetary support.

  • Eddie Donnally

    Cot, you’ve been one my heroes for a long time. Thanks so much for remembering a pioneer of the faith in a place where luck was considered much more important. Salty was indeed a breed apart. I know he, like me, is glad the Bible places horses in heaven. Rev. Eddie Donnally

  • Rachel

    “Those who are forgiven much, give much love back.” Luke 7:47 (paraphrased)

  • Nick Nicholson

    Nick Nicholson
    Cot, thank you once again for sharing something special. Salty, was part of the fabric of the racetrack for our time. I loved his smile and his constant greeting-

  • Phil Serpe

    Thanks for writing about Salty Roberts. I grew up at Monmouth Park. From Hotwalker to groom to assistant trainer to trainer and most proudly to leading trainer. I knew Salty and Sterling like family in my years at Monmouth Park and then at “The old” Gulfstream. You could never meet a better man than Salty Roberts. He never asked you for anything but was always there with a kind word. Guys like him belong in the Hall of Fame.
    Phil Serpe Trainer

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