The concept of thoroughbred racing partnerships came to fruition Oct. 16, 1971, when a game filly named Mrs. Cornwallis crossed the wire ahead of La Brisa to win the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland.
The world of horse racing might not have recognized it that day, but W. Cothran (Cot) Campbell certainly did.
Campbell, the owner of Mrs. Cornwallis and an upstart horseman from Atlanta, picked up much more than his first gold julep cup from the Kentucky race course that day.
With his first stakes victory for his Dogwood Stable operation, Campbell knew that his idea of racing partnerships had finally arrived.
Forty years after that first big win, Campbell is scaling back his involvement with the Aiken-based stable.
Dogwood announced Wednesday that Campbell, 84, will no longer form racing partnerships after Jan. 1, but he will continue to manage those in existence.
“It’s probably a logical thing after 40 years,” Campbell said. “I’m going to stay active in the horse business, and manage our partnerships.”
Campbell came up with the idea of partnerships while in Atlanta in the 1960s, and in 1971 he bought and campaigned Mrs. Cornwallis.
The move brought Campbell and Dogwood plenty of attention, and when the filly was successful, the concept took off.
Campbell abandoned his successful advertising agency business in Atlanta and New York, and he established Dogwood Farm in Greenville, Ga. In 1986, Dogwood sold its farm and moved its operation to Aiken.
He said the concept of racing partnerships made perfect sense, but horse racing was too traditional to come up with it.
“I stumbled onto it but had the good sense to recognize that I had the talent to present it and it caught on,” Campbell said. “It has made a major difference, it’s changed the game in racing. It really has. I’ve often said 50 to 60 percent of the horses racing today are part of some sort of partnership.”
Campbell estimates he has introduced more than 1,000 people to thoroughbred racing through his partnerships.
“As the George Washington of racehorse partnerships, Campbell began a movement that, without exaggeration, is critical to the survival of the sport,” Lenny Shulman wrote in The Blood-Horse earlier this year.
Campbell said he has been in touch with Dogwood’s 90 partners (involved in 43 different partnerships), and they understand his commitment to the management of their existing horses.
“It may be when this word gets out that various racing organizations will have propositions about restructuring Dogwood,” Campbell said. “(But) I don’t want the burden of doing new ones.”
Longtime Dogwood associates Jack Sadler and Bill Victor are expected to remain heavily involved in the stable’s operation.
In four decades of racing, Campbell and the green-and-yellow silks of Dogwood were familiar at race tracks all over North America. The pinnacle came in 1990, when Summer Squall won the Preakness Stakes with a stirring stretch run.
Dogwood counts 76 stakes winners and 15 Grade I winners among its successes. The stable has competed in the Kentucky Derby six times with seven horses, and run in 10 Breeders’ Cup races (with Storm Song winning the Juvenile Fillies in 1996). The stable also won two Eclipse Awards thanks to Storm Song and Inlander.
The “semi-retirement” doesn’t mean Campbell will sit back and rest on his laurels, though.
“I’d go crazy if I didn’t have enough to do,” he said. “I always like to have enough on my plate, just not too much. I don’t want to chase any rabbits I can’t catch.”