“They’re dancing in the streets of Aiken!”
— W. Cothran Campbell, Dogwood Stable president, after Palace Malice’s impressive Belmont Stakes victory.
And indeed, we were.
It’s those words, said by Campbell in front of a global viewing audience on NBC after Aiken’s own Palace Malice won the Belmont Stakes Saturday, that have been resonating in our heads since the impressive victory.
Campbell made sure to pay tribute to our city that has supported him, the Aiken Training Track and Palace Malice since the beginning. That support never wavered, and today, we stand with our hearts full of pride for Campbell and all involved in getting Palace Malice across the finish line first.
Palace Malice is the first horse to have trained over the Aiken Training Track to win the third jewel of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown since Danzig Connection won the Belmont Stakes in 1986.
“This is one of the greatest days in my life,” Campbell said after the race Saturday. “It’s one of the great moments in my career.”
And it’s a moment to be marked in history for all of us in Aiken.
Palace Malice trainer Todd Pletcher, who trained Palace Malice since the colt left Aiken and who prepared him for Saturday’s race, is one of the most important people behind the victory.
Jockey Mike Smith, who pushed the horse through to the end, and Brad Stauffer, who trained Palace Malice in Aiken over the Aiken Training Track, also are to be commended.
“I kept watching to see if another horse was going to come at him, but no one ever did,” Stauffer said Saturday.
“It’s the dream of everyone who’s been involved in Thoroughbred racing to be associated with something like this. And even though we played a small part in it, he was only at the barn for a little over a month, it’s quite rewarding. I’m happy for the riders and the grooms who played a part in it,” Stauffer said.
After watching Palace Malice come out of the gate strong and then fall behind in the Kentucky Derby to finish in 12th place, our hearts broke a bit for our town, Campbell and all of those associated with the Derby run.
Not anymore. This win is not just a win for Campbell, or Pletcher, or Smith or Stauffer; it feels like a win for every single Aiken resident.
Thanks to these men and a well-trained colt, our pride and enthusiasm cannot be contained.
Victory is ours!