There seems to be a consensus that the Derby gods will be smiling this time around on Dogwood Stable's W. Cothran Campbell.
The 85-year-old, Aiken-based horseman and pioneer in Thoroughbred racehorse partnerships, will have his eighth Kentucky Derby starter, Palace Malice, going postward in today's 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and recognizes the significance of the event.
“It means a whole lot,” said Campbell, in a phone interview Friday morning. “Everyone's been saying the Derby gods will be smiling on us this time around. It's very gratifying; we seem to be popular.”
The last owner to have a horse trained in Aiken, who went onto win the Kentucky Derby, was Paul Mellon in 1993. And like Campbell, he was 85 years old, when Sea Hero won the first jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. Frances Genter's Unbridled won the 1990 Kentucky Derby when she was 92, and Dogwood Stable's very first Derby starter, Summer Squall, would go onto finish second in the race.
However, a Kentucky Derby victory remains elusive for Dogwood Stable as they have yet to find the winner's circle in the world's most famous race. The stable's other starters since Summer Squall have had mixed success, Wallenda, 13th, 1993; Smilin Singin Sam, 10th, 1994; Jack Flash, 7th, 1997; Impeachment, 3rd, 2000; Trippi, 11th, 2000 and Limehouse, 4th in 2004.
The bay colt drew post position No. 10 in the 19-horse field, an enviable spot for Derby connections, one that has proved lucky in past races.
“We're tickled to death with the post position,” said Campbell. “He'll be the last horse to load, he and the 20 horse. He's been training well, and is a little anxious, like a fighter ready to go into the ring.”
The 139th edition of the 1¼-mile, $2,199,800, Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, the first jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, has an approximate post time at 6:24 p.m., and the broadcast will air on NBC from 4 to 7 p.m.
• Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004. Among the awards Baugh has won include the 2003 Raleigh Burroughs Award as the turf writer making the most impact on the Florida Thoroughbred Industry. Baugh is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, worked for North America's leading Thoroughbred breeder Adena Springs in Ocala, Fla. And interned at Thoroughbred Racing Communications in New York, N.Y.