Eventually, someone would have discovered America had Christopher Columbus not “sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety-two.” But ol' Chris got there first and received all the credit: a federal holiday named in his honor, parades, a day of pride for Italian-Americans. Of course he didn't live long enough to bask in the glory of what he helped create through his belief that the world was round and not flat.
In the world of horse racing, someone would have eventually come up with the idea of shared ownership, too, but Cot Campbell is the guy who gets the credit for the concept that made owning a racehorse less intimidating and more affordable. His Dogwood Stable partnerships, created in 1969, have brought hundreds of people into the game. More importantly, it provided a template for others to follow: Centennial Farm, Team Valor International, West Point Thoroughbreds, and a long list of others.
To put it simply, Cot Campbell changed the game for the better, and there aren't many people who can make that claim. Imagine where we would be today were it not for partnerships.
Cot and wife Anne were in Lexington the other day to receive a gold tray the Keeneland Association awards to owners that have compiled eight Graded stakes wins at the historic track. It's taken awhile: Mrs. Cornwallis gave Dogwood its first Keeneland stakes win in 1971 when she captured the Alcibiades for 2-year-olds, and No. 8 came when the aptly named Aikenite won the Commonwealth Stakes in April. Their step has gotten a little slower, their hair a bit grayer, but the Campbells' enthusiasm for racing is just as vibrant and infectious today as it was 40 years ago. They are good for the game.
The list of previous recipients of the gold tray reads like a who's who of racing at Keeneland. It includes Claiborne Farm, Bwamazon Farm, Lane's End Farm, Darby Dan Farm, Juddmonte Farms, Overbrook Farm, Sam-Son Farm, C.V. Whitney, Allen Paulson, and Michael Tabor, among others.
Appropriately, Dogwood is the first partnership to join that distinguished list of gold tray recipients.
Each year, the presenting sponsors of the Eclipse Awards – the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters – vote on whether to bestow an Award of Merit on an individual for outstanding lifetime contributions to the game. It is considered one of the sport's highest honors.
I'm sure that when Cot Campbell formed his first Dogwood partnership he was more concerned with figuring out a way to make a living in a business that he loves than he was with creating a legacy or even making racehorse ownership more accessible. But through his vision, his tireless efforts to promote racing, his enduring optimism in a sport where defeat far outnumbers victory, he has unquestionably been a positive force – a game-changer.
For that, I can't think of a more deserving recipient of an Award of Merit than Cot Campbell.
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