Shortly after 10:30 Friday morning, W. Cothran “Cot” Campbell will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., as a “Pillar of the Turf.” Upon the completion of the ceremony, he will be one of 23 so recognized to date and will be the only inductee to receive the honor during his lifetime.
Prior to 2013, the Hall was comprised of three categories – horses, jockeys and trainers. This was not enough blanket to cover the bed, so the “Pillars” division was created – without well-defined boundaries – to recognize the many deserving individuals who did not fit within the original groupings.
Campbell pioneered the notion of partners owning racehorses, an idea even more compelling in the present day as the expense of acquiring the race horse and everything related to it has mushroomed.
Upon receiving the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters’ Joe Palmer Award in 2014 for “long and meritorious service to racing,” Campbell said, “I do believe I have stumbled into meritorious service to racing, but let’s emphasize that I stumbled. Lots of things just came together. If I hadn’t started the partnership concept, someone else certainly would.”
In addition to managing Dogwood Stable, the nom de plume of the organization through which his partnerships have raced, Campbell, though claiming to have never received a diploma from any academic institution he attended, has authored three books in a writing style that most of those with several doctorate degrees would envy.
In the latest of these, entitled “Rascals and Racehorses, A Sporting Man’s Life,” the last photograph included shows Campbell and his wife, Anne, presumably at a race track. The caption beneath the picture reads, “Anne Campbell has gone along for the ride with unfailing good humor and support.” And she has been there from the start.
In the fall of 1958, Anne was a senior at Agnes Scott College and was introduced to the man who would become her husband by one of his friends, a co-worker at an Atlanta advertising agency. However, the friend issued a warning: “He’s 31 years old, divorced and is a recovering alcoholic.”
When interviewed this week, Anne recalled her response. “That’s the kind of man I want to meet,” she said.
Married in the summer of 1959, the Campbells had a spectator’s interest in the racing game at first. Before long, however, the desire for active involvement began to grow. “Cot really wanted to go into the business,” Anne said. “But he couldn’t afford to do it. So the idea of a partnership was hatched. I was all for it.”
The plunge was taken in the fall of 1967 with the purchase of a yearling filly for the grand sum of $1,000, later to be named Social Asset. At the limit of his budget, Campbell took in two partners and the seed that would produce a towering oak was planted. But the seed took a while to germinate. Social Asset won only once, and then in a bottom level maiden claiming event at River Downs in Cincinnati.
Fast forwarding half a century to the current day, Anne professes to be awed by the fact that Cot changed the face of thoroughbred racing with his partnership idea. Like anything else, the Dogwood venture had its ups and downs.
“But I never felt like it was a struggle,” she said. “Cot is a very positive person, always anticipating. He is never desolate and he never looks back. He is not the ‘if only’ type.
“I’m stunned by the impact of the Hall of Fame,” she said. “It’s the greatest honor Cot’s ever had. Not to diminish the degree of his other awards, but this is so far beyond anything else. This is the pinnacle of industry recognition.”
And to top it off, it comes at Saratoga, a place Anne describes as “magical” and the couple’s visits as “the highlight of each year.”
Cot Campbell had a dream that led, as he has cleverly termed it, to “Invention, the Mother of Necessity.” He describes Anne’s part in the equation as follows: “Not once has this woman ever doubted the successful outcome of any venture I have proposed. In fact, she led the cheering, then did everything in her power to put it over the top.”
Such is a partnership from which a Pillar emerged.