This year marks the 175th birthday of the town of Aiken, South Carolina. Aiken is where I live, where Dogwood Stable is headquartered.
It is a fine horse town. And much to the disgust of the Aiken progressives, some of the roads are still dirt to accommodate the safety of racehorses, polo ponies, hunters and carriage horses.
There are horses of all types all over the place. It is not uncommon in Aiken to see a six-horse hitch, with a top-hatted driver and festive passengers, gaily clopping through the main downtown thoroughfare.
Aiken really reeks of tradition and of the Thoroughbred establishment. Names like Whitney, Bostwick, Von Stade, Grace, Iselin, Knox, Post, Mellon, and Hitchcock - prominent in The Social Register, The Jockey Club, and other blue-blooded rosters - still have distinct ties to this community.
But Aiken does not have the panache it once had in the era where the gentleman of the "Winter Colony" were whisked out of New York on private, non-stop trains every Friday night and returned to the city on Monday. And so were the young sons and daughters of socialites transported to this South Carolina city near the Georgia line for proper schooling with suitable peers at Aiken Prep. Those same trains horses, in surprising numbers, to and from Aiken from fall to spring.
The illustrious Greentree Stable was for many years a mainstay on the Aiken equine scene, and it flourished under the iron hand of the exalted, Princeton-educated trainer, John Gaver. His son Jim, still a resident of Aiken, recently wrote this rather charming remembrance of winter quarters in this racehorse town:
"As a little boy in Aiken in the late 1940s, I vividly remember the spectacle of the arrival and departure of the Greentree horses. In the fall, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, a special private train from New York would pull alongside the railway freight station on Park Avenue. In those days, each Thoroughbred was attended by its own groom, so the unloading of the train produced a parade of forty or more horses, each perfectly turned out and draped in identical green and white plaid blankets. The horses were led from Park Avenue down Williamsburg to South Boundary, then along Marlboro Street to the Greentree complex on Two Notch Road. Their grooms would be returning to Aiken after almost eight months; the town was in a holiday mood, welcoming back its men to their families, often a father hugging a new son or daughter for the first time. There were many smiles and much excitement: Greentree was back in town!
Sadly, the process had to reverse itself in the spring. Still the same magnificent Thoroughbreds in their traveling gear, but now smiles turned to tears as fathers, sons, husbands and boyfriends headed north for the summer racing season."
The Greentree facility is the one that Dogwood occupies in this day in time and we're proud to follow an illustrious stable of that sort.
Some of the great racehorses of the past 60 years, representing many illustrious trainers and outfits in our game, have "girded their loins" in winter quarters in Aiken. And they still do.
And exciting development for Aiken in this day and time is that the great Thoroughbred operation - Darley - owned by Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, has selected Aiken as their headquarters for breaking yearlings. They bought about 360 acres here and they're developing it and it will be one of the great training centers in America. It will be a private operation and it lends further prestige to the wonderful horse town of Aiken, South Carolina. All of us here are very excited about having Darley in Aiken.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.