By Lenny Shulman and Frank Angst
When the working relationship between Thoroughbred ownership partnerships Dogwood Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners becomes an official merger July 1, Eclipse will take over all purchasing duties and management of the Eclipse-Dogwood stable.
Dogwood president Cot Campbell and Eclipse president Aron Wellman announced plans June 20 to officially merge operations. All new yearling, two-year-old, and older horse purchases will be made and managed by Eclipse in the name of Eclipse-Dogwood. Horses will race in that name with racing colors alternating. Existing Dogwood partnerships will continue to be managed by Campbell.
"The loose connection we have had with Aron Wellman and Eclipse is one that has worn well. What was described earlier as 'going steady' is now going to be a marriage," Campbell said. "As I cracked after winning the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) with Palace Malice , 'This great win is not likely to accelerate my retirement,' and it won't. I will enjoy continuing to manage Dogwood existing partnerships but our client roster will now be offered participation in the new horses formed and managed by Aron Wellman and Eclipse/Dogwood."
Wellman said the transition has been taking shape for about a year and he will work to make the new partnership one that keeps current Dogwood clientele on board.
"It's a tremendously humbling experience and opportunity Cot has provided us with," Wellman said. "I'd never imagine we'd be able to take the torch from his hand but now that we're in that position, we're going to do our best to deliver for our existing partners and the Dogwood partners that will join us and make Cot and his family proud. It's a big deal."
Jack Sadler, Dogwood vice president of 37 years, will become vice president of operations for Eclipse but will continue partnership servicing duties with Dogwood. Bill Victor, Dogwood treasurer for 22 years, will assume the role of chief financial officer for Eclipse, but will maintain responsibility for existing Dogwood partnerships. Both will remain in the current historic Dogwood office in Aiken, S.C. However, Eclipse also has offices in Del Mar, Calif. and Springboro, Ohio.
The majority of the new young horses will be trained in Aiken at the Dogwood training barns run by Brad Stauffer and Ron Stevens.
While Wellman makes the final decisions, Eddie Delahoussaye assists in the purchase of yearlings and clocker Gary Young tracks the 2-year-olds in training sales. Wellman noted that Eclipse-Dogwood will continue to purchase proven horses domestically and abroad while becoming more active at public auctions.
"Most of the Dogwood clientele are experienced in yearling and 2-year-old auction buys so we will ramp up our public auction buying now that our client roster is expanding with people experienced in those type of ventures," Wellman said.
"I will look in on all aspects of the Eclipse-Dogwood operation when asked to," Campbell said. "But the effectiveness of Aron Wellman and Eclipse has been established dramatically. Since he and co-founder Lee Midkiff launched their endeavor in the fall of 2011, they have won 13 stakes races (including this year's grade I Vanity Handicap with Byrama) with eight different horses, and right now the outfit is ranked among America's top five in graded stakes wins."
Wellman said he is lucky to have Campbell as ambassador and as a source for ideas.
"Cot Campbell, his brand, staff, and family are pure class and to be provided the opportunity to live up to the high standard he has set is a responsibility I do not take lightly. We have come to know many of the Dogwood faithful and we're keen to welcome them into the Eclipse family. It is an honor to be handpicked by Cot to carry on his esteemed legacy. This is the ultimate endorsement."