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Book Review

Memoirs of a Longshot: A Riproarious Life
By W. Cothran Campbell
Xlibris Corp., 325 pages, March 2007, available in paperback or hardcover

One of racing's greatest ambassadors in recent memory is W. Cothran "Cot" Campbell, founder of the world-famous Dogwood Stable. Given his runners' performance on the track, and the frequent sight of Cot and Anne Campbell in the paddocks, owners' boxes, and society functions, it is very easy to assume that Campbell came from racing's aristocracy much as the Phipps and Whitney families. In his autobiography, Memoirs of a Longshot, Campbell tells us that nothing could be further from the truth. Campbell, and the concept of Dogwood Stable itself, did come from the wrong side of the tracks, making for a very fitting title indeed. Campbell's story is at the same time inspiring and entertaining to read.

Campbell never completed grammar school, high school, or college, but he did serve in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. Once he completed his tour of duty, he attended two colleges although he dropped out of both, and then spent several years trying to find his true calling. He traveled up and down the northeast U.S., trying all sorts of jobs from apprentice mortician to MC at a water skiing show, moving from city to city as each money-making scheme failed to pan out. With each failure, including his first failed marriage, he found himself coming home to Rome, Georgia to regroup, borrow more money from his family, and plan his next strategy. Campbell did not know the meaning of quit, which has helped him to this day. His biggest problem was he also could not quit drinking. His alcoholism prevented him from excelling at anything, and in fact landed him in jail numerous times.

Finally admitting he had a problem, he enrolled himself at Alcoholics Anonymous, kicked his destructive habit, and suddenly, Campbell's natural talents were able to shine. He and a partner founded a very successful advertising agency in Atlanta, which he eventually left in order to pursue his true passion, as a Thoroughbred owner. He married current wife Anne and, with his business sense in forming limited partnerships, brought the partnership concept to the sport of horse racing. Initially attracting investors from his home town and business acquaintances, Campbell was able to sell the idea of enjoying the thrill of watching "your" horse win stakes races, while not having to absorb all the other costs if the horse isn't paying his own way on the track.

Racehorse partnerships were new indeed, and racing's upper crust initially were cold to these groups of newcomers. But as the famous green and yellow silks of Dogwood Stable appeared more and more often in winner's circles in major stakes races, officials and fans alike began to take notice. Campbell spends time talking about some of his most memorable runners, including turf stars Dominion and Southjet along with Preakness winner Summer Squall. Today Campbell is one of the most respected men in the sport, and has received numerous awards for his success. He even began a campaign to bring pari-mutuel racing to Georgia, which ultimately failed, but this was probably his only failed project since he had his last drink 50 years ago.

Campbell is one of racing's best public speakers, a very entertaining character whose personality really shows through in this book. He uses self-deprecating humor to poke fun at himself, whether it was due to some of his antics while under the influence of alcohol, or in more recent times when he devised the comedy character "Sheikh Bin Had".

Clearly, his life story shows how a man from the wrong side of the tracks overcame his biggest weakness to become a successful businessman, horseman, and ambassador to the sport of Thoroughbred racing. This is an excellent read for anybody who enjoys a true life, rags-to-riches story, especially racing fans who have seen Dogwood's success and wish to get in on the action via a partnership group.

Memoirs of a Longshot has a list price of $32.99 in hardcover and $22.99 in trade paperback. It is available from Xlibris.com for $19.54 (paperback) or $29.69 (hardback) and Horseinfo.com.

Rating:     5/5

Other books by Campbell:

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