AIKEN — As the Dogwood Stable horse headed for home, Cot Campbell stood at the edge of the platform and rooted with all his might.
This wasn’t Churchill Downs, or Belmont Park. It was Ford Conger Field, and the Dogwood founder came up a winner again in The Calico Creek, the first race of the Aiken Fall Steeplechase on Saturday afternoon.
Street Fight won his debut over fences at the 22nd renewal of the fall races. It left Campbell, who won the Belmont Stakes in June with Palace Malice, ecstatic.
“We’re glad to get this one in our hometown,” Campbell said. “That was exciting. It’s a big kick.”
Street Fight, a gelding whose sire Street Sense won the Kentucky Derby in 2007, began his career as a flat racer before Campbell decided to try him as a steeplechaser.
“This is a horse that’s always touted himself as being a good horse, but he’s never delivered the goods,” Campbell said. “This may be his career. He sure ran like it today.”
An estimated crowd of about 10,000 spectators turned out for Saturday’s five races.
During the event, a carriage parade and hat contest entertained the crowd.
There was also the Village of Shops and Paddock Playground. Vendors had a chance to sell merchandise, and the Paddock Playground offered a variety of games for children.
In the featured race of the day, Pleasant Woodman was in command of the Budweiser Holiday Cup from start to finish as he covered the race course with 10 fences in a time of 4:21.4.
The performance left jockey Willie McCarthy impressed.
“He likes it on the front end,” McCarthy said. “I always felt like I had another gear. That’s the way this horse has to run. He’s very professional. It was a great performance.”
McCarthy also rode Street Fight, and he said the Dogwood horse has a bright future ahead.
“We thought maybe he was bored with the other game and might spark to this one, and he seemed to this afternoon,” he said.
Campbell hopes the winning continues next Saturday, when Palace Malice competes in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in California. The 3-year-old could win an Eclipse Award with a strong showing.
Like he did Saturday, Campbell will be cheering again for the green and yellow silks.
“Damn right, you bet,” he said. “I’m a screamer. Always have been.”