After Belmont Stakes win, national attention shifts to Aiken

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, June 10, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- He walked in with his wife, Anne, to a standing ovation. Well-wishers gathered around a Palace Malice cake to wish him well and congratulate him.

In the distance, tables were lined in green and yellow streamers and green and yellow flowerpots were perched on top of the dining tables, too. Many of the guests that greeted two smiling celebrities also wore suits or dresses of green and yellow, the colors of Dogwood Stable. To thunderous applause, Cot Campbell was home.

"I'm very grateful to win the Belmont. I've done it in the twilight of my career,” said Campbell to a packed out Rotary Club meeting in Newberry Hall. "As I said earlier, that is euphemistically speaking, as I'm sure that I've got more past than I've got future."

It was a win that might cap off the career of the 85-year-old owner. At Belmont Park on Long Island on Saturday, Campbell’s horse Palace Malice ran perhaps the perfect race at the 145th Belmont Stakes.

"They came around the stretch for home, and I'm like, 'Oh my God! Mike Smith's going to pull it off! Palace Malice has another gear!'" said Jane Page Thompson, a Rotarian, who watched the race with a number of friends.

His Dogwood Stable won the Preakness with Summer Squall in 1990, but this is the first Triple Crown win since.

"This horse has got courage. He is a fighter, and he does his best every time,” Campbell said.

But this horse has also put the City of Aiken on its back.

"I'm proud for Aiken, South Carolina! They'll be dancing in the streets right now!" said Campbell to Bob Costas during a nationally televised post-race interview.

Besides that, there was a New York Times article Monday touting Aiken as a worldwide horse destination.

"That's priceless! It's just perfect!” said Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce President J. David Jameson. ”It could not be any better scripted if the Chamber had done it!"

It’s great news for realtors like Jane Page Thompson.

"I've already got three people calling, so it's good news. You know, I had three people on Facebook at about 8 o'clock Saturday night go, 'Well, we may reconsider Aiken,'" she told News 12.

"It's going to be absolutely impossible to measure the benefits of this kind of exposure for our community, but I bet they're going to be positive!" Jameson said.

It’s all thanks to Palace Malice and owner Campbell -- one of Aiken's greatest treasures.

Campbell says Palace Malice immediately showed good energy for another race. While the schedule isn’t set in stone, Campbell says the horse will compete in the Jim Dandy Stakes and Travers in Saratoga. He also hopes to run the horse in another race at Belmont Park and the Breeder’s Cup in California.

When asked by the crowd, Campbell said the horse should return later in the year to winter in Aiken. After, Campbell told a story about the return of Summer Squall 23 years ago.

“Fifty people showed up at the barn to watch him eat grass,” he said. “People are easily entertained here in Aiken.”

After Campbell finished his remarks, his wife spoke briefly. She says the same two qualities her husband looks for in horses, courage and class, are the same two qualities she sees in her husband.

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