A disposition to take the most hopeful view is inherent in Dogwood’s captain, Cot Campbell and sailing right at his side for 54 years has been his lovely wife, Anne. What you admire most about this couple is that they don’t take optimism for granted; they anchor it in cornerstones of faith, integrity, persistence and an overall insistence to do the right things for the right reasons.
During the 150th anniversary celebration of racing, Palace Malice seems bent on waking the town and telling the people just how great this sport is and how a horse can touch so many lives. He’s not content to wake only New Yorkers, his ripple has the people of Aiken, South Carolina dancing in the streets. That charming winter quarters to so many racing greats has been Cot and Anne’s home for nearly three decades.
Campbell was the pioneer of racing partnerships, a concept not well-received in the early years. Many of the owners at the top of the game were steeped in the philosophy that racing should remain the Sport of Kings. Now all these years later it is evident that Campbell didn’t cheapen the sport, he wisely allowed room for more kings.
Several of them gathered on Jim Dandy eve at a party hosted by Michael Blowen of Old Friends at the Washington Inn. This wasn’t an event carved into the busy summer schedule—Blowen created a celebration because he saw all the ingredients were present. He put it together and let folks know when and where it would be.
The fruits of loyalty abounded at this spontaneous party. Campbell was among the first to send horses to Todd Pletcher when that young trainer stepped out on his own. Jockey Mike Smith was there. Mike’s a fantastic guy, none better for the sport. He loves horses and he was humbly appreciative that Todd kept him on Palace Malice after the colt literally ran off with him in the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher kept the jockey but pitched the blinkers after that speedy affair and the formula paid off handsomely with a convincing win in the Belmont Stakes.
The town welcomed the Campbells home with a parade, yellow and green ribbons streaming from the airport to the Campbell’s home, balloons were flying high and people were dancing in the streets to the joyful tune of New York, New York.
What’s it really like in Aiken these days? Local resident Jane Keisler said it this way: “Everyone you talk with, whether its grandchildren or shop owners, the mention of Palace Malice is constant. Some of those conversations are because we admire and love Cot and Anne and Dogwood’s place in our community and we want to cheer for their success and celebrate the milestones as they ‘raise their children,’ so to speak.”
Keisler continued, “At Sunday’s service after the Jim Dandy win, our minister started his sermon with the joy and jubilation that Palace Malice’s win created. He proceeded to use the race and Palace Malice’s determination to run his best as a metaphor of how we should live our lives.”
Bena Cates has a close friend struggling with the perils of failing health. She told Cot and Anne, “You and Palace Malice are factors in a whole different story than you would imagine: the playing out of God’s care for our friend Laura Hay in her illness, who is getting a huge lift from the four of us having ‘adopted’ Palace Malice and his fabulous career.”
When Beth Newburn was asked about Palace Malice, she replied “Dogwood Stables and the Campbells continue to put Aiken on the map. Cot often says he truly loves Aiken, but let me tell you, we love them and feel honored to be a part of all the excitement they bring to Aiken. Green and yellow are certainly the fashionable colors in our town now, along with the darling “upcycled sacks” that are made by our own Theresa King. I am thrilled with my new Anne Campbell purse made from feed sacks and lined with green and yellow polka dots.”
I spoke with Theresa King and she told me how she’d moved to Aiken because of polo but she’s caught in the ripple of Palace Malice now.
“The Campbell’s success is infectious,” exclaimed King. “Aiken is the kind of town the revels in other’s successes. They are making racing history and it’s so exciting and we are all so proud!”
King has started a little cottage business making useful totes out of feed sacks.
“Palace Malice has given me inspiration with my bags/purses—it’s been a great way to show support and Dogwood spirit,” said King. “I’m working on some new designs and that horse has really given me courage to try some new things, new materials etc.”
David Jameson, the president of Aiken’s Chamber of Commerce claims his job has been made a lot easier, “You can’t buy this kind of publicity,” he said.
Leighton McLendon summed it up by saying “Palace Malice may run in Dogwood silks but he’s Aiken’s horse.” He paused and added, “Leo Durocher once said ‘nice guys finish last,’ well it’s for sure he never met Cot Campbell.”
Can you imagine the ripple effect if this popular colt wins the Travers Stakes? It’s those kinds of hopes that make racing such a great sport.