“I was blown away.”

Dogwood Stable’s president W. Cothran Campbell used that powerful narrative to describle the feeling of overwhelming support he received from the community, as Palace Malice made his way along the Kentucky Derby trail, and his eventual trip postward in the 139th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 4.

All of Aiken found themselves along for the ride, and their enthusiasm for the horse was so thick last Saturday afternoon, the event itself brought a flood of euphoria to area residents.

“What an exciting response from this community,” said Campbell. “I can’t believe it. I think everyone had an exciting afternoon. I went into the Rotary Club on Monday, and they gave me a standing ovation. I was blown away. Everywhere I’ve gone, whether it be the shoe shop, golf course, restaurants, everyone was very supportive, and were like, ‘I thought we had it.’ It was a great thing. I appreciate it.”

A challenging sophomore campaign has earned Palace Malice a respite from competing, but the hiatus may be over sooner than later for the 3-year-old colt, depending on how the Preakness Stakes is run and what horses come out of the middle jewel of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. Thought and consideration to running in this year’s Belmont Stakes will be based on those variables, said Campbell.

Palace Malice set the early pace in the Kentucky Derby, and was in front for the first -mile, and there was a unique trend among the horses that established the pace on the front end at the start of the race, and those who crossed the wire at the finish, said Campbell.

“The horses that were one, two, three, four and five early, after a quarter-mile, finished 12th, 17th, 19th 14th and 18th,” said Campbell. “The horses that were 16th, 15th, 17th, 12th and 18th after the first quarter, finished first, second, third, fourth and fifth. Of those that held on, Palace Malice held on better than anybody, but wasn’t a factor. he fought bravely, but was out of gas.”

Campbell has enormous appreciation for the horse.

“He’s tough, but unlucky so far,” said Campbell. “I talked to someone the other day, and they said, ‘The horse was very unlucky, but there has to be some blue sky out there.’ ”

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.