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Cot Campbell, who innovated horse racing ownership, dies

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NEW YORK — W. Cothran “Cot” Campbell, the South Carolina horseman who pioneered shared ownership of race horses and was an advocate for the American racing thoroughbred industry, has died. He was 91.

He died Saturday at his home in Aiken, South Carolina, the New York Racing Association said Sunday.

Campbell made his mark in 1969 when he introduced syndicated ownership, which features numerous owners sharing a percentage of the costs and the risk. It allowed new people to enter the expensive sport.

He founded Aiken-based Dogwood Stable. Among the champions that carried his green-and-yellow silks were 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall and 1996 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Storm Song, who won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s champion 2-year-old filly.

Dogwood had eight Kentucky Derby entrants from 1990 to 2013, and its best finish was second with Summer Squall in 1990.

Another Dogwood horse, Inlander, won an Eclipse Award as 1987’s champion steeplechaser.

Todd Pletcher, who trained many prominent horses for Dogwood including Palace Malice, recalled Campbell’s kindness and love of the sport.

“He always embraced the game with great enthusiasm. He loved horses, he loved horse racing and his impact on the industry, not only through Dogwood Stable, but through the number of new people he introduced to the game at the highest level is a major contribution to racing as we know it today,” Pletcher said. “He was always very kind and knew every groom’s name. He was a terrific person to work for. He gave a lot of young trainers over the years an opportunity and a chance to prove themselves.”

In August, Campbell was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, as part of the Pillars of the Turf in recognition for “extraordinary contributions” in leadership positions or as pioneers in the industry.

“Years ago I bought a thousand-dollar filly with two pals and thus I stumbled into the idea of group ownership of a racehorse,” he told the Hall of Fame gathering. “It made sense and it caught on. Well over 1,200 people have come into racing through Dogwood. And I believe half the people racing horses in America are racing in some sort of partnership.”

A member of The Jockey Club, Campbell received an Eclipse Award of Merit in 2012.

“All my life I have been besotted with racehorses,” Campbell said in his Hall of Fame speech. “Now as I pointed out I’ve got a little age on me. I’m probably the only person in this building – or maybe this town – who ever saw Man o’ War. And I thank Man o’ War because he lit the fuse that caused me to pursue an absolutely wonderful life.”

In 2013, Campbell sold his Dogwood Stable client list to Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and agreed not to compete with that group by forming new racing partnerships. On his own, however, he continued to campaign horses.

“Cot Campbell was a giant of thoroughbred racing and visionary thinker whose creation of syndicate racing partnerships brought countless new owners to the sport,” NYRA CEO and president Chris Kay said. “Cot was endlessly generous and devoted his time and spirit to a variety of philanthropic causes.”

Born Wade Cothran Campbell on Sept. 27, 1927, in New Orleans, he enlisted in the Navy on his 17th birthday and served on the USS Bull, a destroyer in the South Pacific and China seas from 1944-46.

Campbell held a variety of jobs, including valet car parker and citrus grove worker, before deciding to become a journalist. He worked at newspapers in Florida and Georgia, and later at advertising agencies in New Orleans and Atlanta. In 1964, he co-founded Burton-Campbell, which became one of the South’s leading ad agencies.

Campbell wrote three books: “Lightning in a Jar: Catching Racing Fever,” “Rascals and Racehorses: A Sporting Man’s Life,” and “Memoirs of a Longshot: A Riproarious Life.”

“I’ve had an absolutely wonderful life,” he said. “A hell of a lot of it is due to the lady I married, and a hell of a lot of it is due to the horses. My career in racing has taken me to Japan and Dubai and all over Europe. I’ve done business with the Aga Khan and Queen Elizabeth and Sheikh Mohammed (the ruler of Dubai). My life has been adventurous, glamorous, exciting and tumultuous. And no one could be more aware of it and more appreciative of it.”

He is survived by Anne, his wife of 59 years, daughters Lila Campbell and Cary Umhau, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

New England’s last thoroughbred horse track winds down

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BOSTON — New England’s last thoroughbred horse track, Boston’s Suffolk Downs, is hosting its final live races this weekend, but it’s not clear what comes next for the industry, which continues to receive millions of dollars in casino tax subsidies.

Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, the company that operates the once grand, 84-year old track, has been running a handful of summertime races since losing out on its bid to build a resort casino on the property in 2014.

Two years ago, it sold the property – where the Depression-era champion Seabiscuit was discovered by the team that launched him into the limelight – to a real estate developer that plans to build apartments, condominiums and offices on the 161-acre property straddling Boston and Revere.

But Sterling Suffolk still wants to remain in the racing business and is betting on legislative approval this year to make that happen.

The company has proposed restoring the Great Barrington Fairgrounds near the New York state line while keeping its more lucrative simulcast and online betting operations in the Boston area. Current regulations don’t allow for a state-licensed race operator to split its operations this way.

The company is also seeking permission to tap into a special state fund for the horse racing industry in order to make improvements at the track. It also wants to extend the length of its racing license from one year to 10 years.

The Race Horse Development Fund is funded by gambling revenues from the state’s three casinos – Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park. But under state regulations, the money must be dedicated largely to horse racing purses and benefits for industry workers. Capital projects like improving a racetrack aren’t permitted uses.

“It doesn’t do the horsemen any good if there’s money building up in that fund and they don’t have any place to run and compete for it,” Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer for Sterling Suffolk, said Friday.

Restoring the Great Barrington track would cost up to $15 million and require extending the length of the half-mile track, as well as renovating the grandstand, he said. The track, which hasn’t hosted horse races since 1998, could be ready by next fall.

“Great Barrington works because it’s a more reasonable option than starting from scratch,” Tuttle said. “But it’s not really practical for us to take on the complete refurbishment of that property unless we have a longer term license and the certainty that comes with it.”

At least one industry group opposes the idea.

The Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association backs a separate bill that would require licensed racing operators host at least 60 race days a year. Sterling Suffolk’s bill would require at least one race day annually and Tuttle said the company only envisions hosting a handful of race days initially at Great Barrington.

“Not until we get a full time track will we see the benefits of the horse racing industry in terms of horse breeding, farms, agriculture and open space,” said Bill Lagorio, the organization’s president. “Folks are raising horses in New York and running them in Massachusetts for a few weeks. That’s not doing anything for this state.”

Tuttle says Lagorio’s group is an “outlier” and does not represent the majority of the region’s horse owners and breeders.

Two other industry groups – New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association – support the proposal, he noted.

The competing proposals and other bills related to the horse racing industry are being considered at a Statehouse hearing Monday.

In the meantime, casino revenues continue to accrue in the Race Horse Development Fund.

To date, nearly $56 million has been paid out — $21 million to the thoroughbred industry and another $34 million to the separate harness racing industry, according to Massachusetts Gaming Commission data.

The harness racing industry continues to run regular races at Plainridge Park’s track and has steadily spent down most of its funding. But the thoroughbred industry, which has long been anchored at Suffolk Downs, has nearly $13 million in its coffers, and growing.

Breeders’ Cup to stay at Santa Anita this year

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LOS ANGELES — The Breeders’ Cup world championships will remain at Santa Anita this fall after 30 horses died during the Southern California track’s recent meet.

The Breeders’ Cup board of directors unanimously decided to keep the two-day event at the track in Arcadia for a record 10th time on Nov. 1-2. The board made its decision at a meeting Thursday in Lexington, Kentucky.

Craig Fravel, president and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup, says the ownership of Santa Anita along with other groups has made “meaningful and effective reforms” in recent months to improve safety. He says the Breeders’ Cup embraces those reforms and will devote time and energy in the coming months to further those efforts.

The 30 horse deaths occurred during Santa Anita’s winter-spring meet that began Dec. 26 and ended Sunday.