NEW YORK — W. Cothran “Cot” Campbell, who pioneered the concept of shared ownership of thoroughbred race horses and was a longtime advocate for the American racing 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.