Once there was a horse named Dominion, a determined runner who put Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stable colors in front of the racing world at tracks from Chicago to Saratoga.
He was a blue-collar horse with rarely seen determination – he would run on the dirt, turf, soft, hard, long, short – and he would lay his heart on the line to get to the front and stay there.
“Prior to a race, he exhibited the animation of a milk cow,” Campbell said. “Afterwards, he would return to be unsaddled with bloodshot eyes blazing. He wasn’t the best horse in the world, but he was just a cut below it. He was terribly, terribly honest and genuine.”
In 1978, the determined horse won the Bernard Baruch Cup at Saratoga. He faced down a fabulous field and dove for home with typical style – ears tucked flat and belly almost touching the ground – outfighting everybody to the wire. The win established Dogwood as a factor in the racing game, and as Campbell walked down to the winner's circle, he could almost feel the thaw.
Co-ownership was an unusual concept that the tradition-steeped bluebloods of the racing industry tended to view with disapproval – but Dominion proved it could be done. According to Campbell, “He was game, generous, workmanlike, dependable, intelligent, courageous, and absolutely unforgettable.”
Today, the now-well-known Dogwood Stable will honor an unsung hero in the racing industry. This year, the 15th annual Dogwood Dominion Award goes to trainer Phyllis Shetron, a founding member of the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program.
“Phyllis Shetron is the perfect definition of an unsung hero,” Campbell said in an earlier press release. “Here is a lady who actually scrounged in dumpsters for mattresses for destitute grooms to sleep on at Finger Lakes Racetrack. Her kind heart certainly extends to horses, and she demonstrated that when she drove into Pennsylvania to rescue 14 horses that were headed for the slaughterhouse.”
A bronze statue of Dominion and a $5,000 check will be awarded to the recipient at a Reading Room luncheon, an event that offers a refreshing chance to recognize the qualities featured in the horse and in so many members of the racing community: sportsmanship, courage, and a genuine love of the game.