The celebration was originally set to honor Aikenite, Dogwood Stable’s 4-year-old colt, for winning a spring race to give the Aiken-based outfit a gold tray from Keeneland Race Course.
But Friday night’s event turned into a celebration for Dogwood president W. Cothran "Cot" Campbell, who said earlier this week that he would not be taking on any more new partnerships and would be “semi-retired” come Jan. 1.
A few hundred people gathered at the museum as Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh proclaimed Friday as “Dogwood Stable Day” in Aiken. That was followed by state Sen. Greg Ryberg, who presented Campbell a proclamation from the South Carolina Senate.
Cavanaugh said Campbell had been an “integral part of Aiken since 1986,” while Ryberg added that the horseman had “truly made a difference” to the state’s equine industry.
Campbell, 84, thanked the crowd and paid tribute to his wife, Anne, and his Dogwood family of employees. Campbell pioneered the concept of racing partnerships in the late 1960s, and the idea is widely used in the sport now.
“I didn’t know any better, so I did it,” Campbell said. “And it worked.”
Campbell’s most recent success story is Aikenite, who has amassed career earnings of $866,635.
Aikenite won Dogwood’s eighth graded stakes race at Keeneland by rallying in the stretch to win the Commonwealth Stakes in April. Jockey John Velazquez guided Aikenite to his first stakes win by 2 1/4 lengths over Cool Bullet.
Dogwood won its first Keeneland grades stakes race in 1971 with Mrs. Cornwallis in the Alcibiades. Other Dogwood horses to win a gold julep cup from Keeneland include Luge II (Forerunner), Summer Squall (Blue Grass and Fayette Handicap), British Banker (Phoenix Breeders’ Cup), Golden Gale (Beaumont) and Vicarage (Perryville).
The eighth one earned Dogwood the solid gold tray, which the stable proudly displayed at the museum Friday night.
Campbell said his one regret is that he didn’t discover Aiken sooner.
“I wish we had come 20 years earlier,” he said.