The Aiken Rotary Club didn't set out a red carpet for Cot and Anne Campbell on Monday, but, much more appropriately, club site Newberry Hall was filled with green and yellow balloons and a delicious green and yellow cake.
Those are the colors of Campbell's Dogwood Stables that jockey Mike Smith was wearing atop Palace Malice in their stunning Belmont Stakes victory on Saturday.
A member of the Rotary Club, Campbell walked in with his wife and waved with pleasure at the standing ovation that greeted them. He also spotted the cake in his honor and discreetly swiped a bit of green icing.
Campbell got two other standing O's – when he was introduced to address the club and again following a taped rerun of the race. He expressed his gratitude for support he has received from the Aiken community.
Palace Malice will get a few months off in the fall at the stables. Campbell had brought to Aiken his 1990 Preakness winner, Summer Squall, for the same reason.
“Fifty people showed up at the barn to watch him eat grass,” Campbell said to laughter. “People are easily entertained here in Aiken.”
History is likely to repeat itself when Palace Malice arrives. Anne Campbell also had some fun at the expense of her smiling husband. While the story is of course the horse, it's also about Rotary for the couple, she said.
“Really, Cot is the only person that got a standing ovation for running 12th in the Kentucky Derby,” Anne said. “You have been so wonderful to him. I can't tell you how much this means to Cot.”
For all the sheer enjoyment of the race, there's a practical side, too. The Aiken name is moving through the world, thanks in part to a New York Times article published on Monday, said David Jameson, president of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.
“As a horse community,” he said, “that couldn't have been any better if the Chamber had submitted the story itself. This is fun, but also productive. A number of people who might have considered Aiken and then delayed it will surely think about it now.”
Aiken is already a destination for people interested in all things equine, said USC Aiken Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan. USCA has an equestrian club and will introduce a continuing education series of equestrian classes that can lead to certificates.
“We've been trying to get a little more intentional about what we offer,” Jordan said. “Thanks to Dogwood Stables and the success of the Belmont race, they will bring additional glory to Aiken. That kind of attention always helps.”