The Dogwood is in bloom again at Saratoga. If there was one special sight among the many soul-cleansing visions of a Saratoga opening day it was the familiar green and yellow silks of Dogwood Stable flashing past the finish line in the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III).
The name Cotton Blossom may conjure up images of the showboat of the same name in the epic musical "Showboat," but the equine version in her own way signified the beginning of a magical journey, not up the Mississippi, but the Hudson River, reaching all the way up to Lake George.
Dogwood Stable and its founder, Cot Campbell, the pioneer of syndicate ownerships that are so prevalent today, for some reason brings one back to racing the way it was and is meant to be – a joyous celebration of the sport. Of course, there are other successful syndicates, but none that spans the decades in the manner of Dogwood. Perhaps it is Cot's smooth southern drawl and the ebullience of his wife, Anne that are so alluring. Heck, it could even be Cot's distinctive hat. But whatever it is, one always has to feel good whenever a top-class Dogwood horse comes along. Just read and look at Dogwood's magnificent coffee table book "A Year at the Races," published in 1991, and see if you don't feel as if you're a part it all.
Dogwood at Saratoga means the annual Dogwood Dominion Award, presented to one of racing's "unsung heroes" at the Reading Room each year. It means Anne Campbell's Saratoga diary that appears in the Dogwood newsletter and enables one to live vicariously through her and Cot's exploits during the Saratoga meeting. It means watching Cot check out yearlings at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion, knowing full well that his three or four purchases, usually within the $100,000 and $250,000 range, have an excellent chance of developing into the typical hard-knocking competitors that Dogwood is known for.
The sight of a young Dogwood 2-year-old emerging at Saratoga has become a familiar one, going back to Summer Squall, winner of the 1989 Hopeful (gr. I) and Saratoga Special (gr. II). There was eventual 2-year-old filly champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Storm Song winning the Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) in 1996; Wild Escapade capturing the 1994 Hopeful; Smok'n Frolic finishing second in the 2001 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I); Limehouse finishing third in the 2003 Saratoga Special; and of course Cotton Blossom winning this year's Schuylerville, just to name a few.
And then there was Dominion, for whom the award was named after, winning the 1978 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. II).
Dogwood has a big chance to win this year's Saratoga Special (gr. II) with Soaring By, who broke his maiden by five lengths at Belmont in his career debut, running almost two full seconds faster than the Tremont Stakes on the same card.
After bursting on the scene with Summer Squall, who captured the 1990 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Dogwood has been trying to find the winner's circle once again in a classic race. What many people don't realize, however, is that Dogwood has finished second, third, and fourth in the Kentucky Derby – with Summer Squall, Impeachment
, and Limehouse, respectively.
They hope to try to complete their own superfecta next year with Soaring By. But for now, as with most of Dogwood's top 2-year-olds, all roads to the Triple Crown begin at Saratoga.