Dogwood President Cot Campbell owes the game of Thoroughbred racing nothing, and he knows the game owes him nothing in return. Still, to hear him speak plainly and poetically about the horses and game he loves, it seems fitting that the horse racing gods have granted him a Classic winner and second choice in Saturday's Travers Stakes in Palace Malice. A three-year-old son of Curlin purchased at Campbell's target price of $200,000, he says, if Palace Malice was a human, he would be someone you'd be happy to hang around.
Quick with his wit and willing to laugh at himself, Campbell was the easiest of interviews. Questions were answered thoughtfully with room to both chuckle and learn. Our scheduled interview time of 10 minutes quickly went to 20, before I thought I should let the 85-year-old go on his Saratoga way. When we were done, Cot had a peppermint or two for Palace Malice and then slowly walked down trainer Todd Pletcher's shedrow with his wife, Anne, and I felt like a better person.
Luckily, we'll still get to see the Dogwood silks into next year with 25 horses, including a group of two-year-olds in training. Campbell's aptly named last Dogwood purchase, Finalize, just may have the makings of a Classic winner. Maybe? It's at least fun considering that Campbell's last act in horse racing will carry on for an encore.
Most in the horse racing industry at least "know of" Campbell, who has written about, spoken about and lived amongst Thoroughbreds at the highest levels (and lowest levels) for close to 50 years. Here is a man with a command of the language of horses and humans, generous in spirit and as authentic a person you'll meet. Do yourself a favor: watch and listen…