This will be a potpourri of what we laughingly call “Gems of Wisdom.”
The only Dogwood accomplishments of Kentucky Derby weekend were that two of the major players – and the winner – got started in horse racing as Dogwood partners. Jim Tafel, a sharp man from Illinois, won the Derby with Street Sense. Jim started with us in the mid-80’s and was a partner in the magnificent stayer, Nassipour. We salute Jim Tafel, his wonderful trainer Carl Nafzger and America’s new favorite hero, jockey Calvin Borel. Another major player in the Derby, although unsuccessful, was Nobiz Like Shobiz, owned by Elizabeth Valando. She and Tommy Valando also had their first horses with Dogwood, and I am proud to say that they won an Eclipse Award with us, with the great steeplechaser, Inlander.
Both Tafel and Valando wanted to “move their own checkers,” as Tommy once said, and they went out on their own and began breeding horses and, boy, did they each do it successfully. Well done!
* * * * *
It is unfortunate that Todd Pletcher – a Dogwood trainer for 11 years now (we sent him horses in the spring of 1996 when he had about four or five percent as many horses as he has now!) – has to hear constantly comments and questions concerning the fact that he has not managed to win a Kentucky Derby. It is surprising that none of the five horses that he entered – and they were all promising – hit the board, but they didn’t. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he has had one of the most marvelous careers in the history of the American turf, and is a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame, and will go down in history as one of the great trainers of all times. Having been a newspaper man, I understand that one has to look for an angle. Unhappily, the angle with Todd at Derby time is that he hasn’t won one – even though he’s won everything else worth winning. The only other topic that could be even more odious to him, would be what’s going on with The Green Monkey (the $16 Million two-year-old of 2006). Obviously, not much. And his progress would have to be a tiresome subject. Todd does an extraordinary job of dealing with details, communicating, and training one of the largest stables in history – all with superb success. My own philosophy in dealing with him is to confine my questions to the progress of Dogwood horses and religiously mind my own business when it comes to the other stock in his barn.
* * * * *
My only other subject in this potpourri would be New York Racing Association and the beleaguered, but dead game Chief Executive, Charlie Hayward. NYRA’s franchise (Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga) expires December 31 and entities are seeking to gain the franchise. NYRA wishes to be reappointed and makes the very good case, it would seem, that they own the land on which these tracks are located. Certainly they have paid taxes on the land for many, many years. The politics of New York State are rough and ready, to put it mildly, and New York Racing Association has been persecuted flagrantly, by various Governors and Legislators. Charlie Hayward has shown incredible guts in persevering under a horrendous, antagonistic atmosphere. Sadly, he lost his right hand man recently when Bill Nader accepted a job in Hong Kong (clearly anxious to put as many miles between himself and the New York hornet’s nest as was humanly possible). New York Racing is a complicated matter, but we all better hope and pray that the franchise in New York falls into the right hands. It is the showcase of all of racing. It is the cornerstone that must not be demolished or weakened much more than it has been.
This is Cot Campbell and these are my views.