In his latest book, Rascals and Racehorses, W. Cothran "Cot" Campbell shares many years of stories from his vast experience with the sport of Thoroughbred racing and the many interesting characters found there. The founder of Dogwood Stable, a pioneer in the equine partnership business, collected these stories from both first-hand experience and elsewhere. Despite the title, the book is not meant to be an autobiography, although several of the stories are from his own life.
His initial experience with horses wasn't what you'd expect. As a young boy he was a dressage rider, but being overweight didn't look right in the uniforms worn for that sport. He was literally laughed out of the horse show ring and out of the sport by a crowd of boys from a local orphanage, despite his riding skills and a second place finish in that event.
Not all the stories are about himself. He spends some time telling us about touts and betting coups, which were entertaining to read as long as you weren't the victim! The disaster that was Birmingham Turf Club was well documented here. The track's management had good intentions but the wrong people in charge who hadn't a clue about running a track. Having a band play the national anthem during the first post parade on opening day, followed by fireworks, leading to spooked horses running all over the place was just the beginning. The next day, they ran out of programs so management simply told the vendors, "We've got plenty left over from last night." Needless to say Birmingham hasn't raced horses in years, although they are still open as a greyhound track.
He tells us how Ben and Jimmy Jones almost got themselves into trouble with Al Capone when they were in Chicago. They were able to give the mob boss his sure winner, and promptly skipped town never to return until Capone was safely behind bars. Another story involved a bloodstock agent trying to impress some Japanese investors who spoke little English. When he said, "This filly is a very good buy" the buyers heard the word "good bye", said their farewells, and promptly left.
He also made sure to pay tribute to his favorite racers. Kelso and the trotter Greyhound made quite an impression on Campbell, along with Dogwood's own Summer Squall who won the Preakness. In the final chapter, he tells us about some of the most entertaining characters he has met, starting with actor Mickey Rooney and ending with "Airborne Wellborne", his (one-time) skydiving instructor.
Rascals and Racehorses is a very entertaining read for any racing fan. Campbell's writing style is perfectly suited to this kind of work, making the already humorous incidents sound even funnier. Fans looking for a history lesson need look elsewhere, but those who have grown weary of the many history books released recently will find Rascals and Racehorses a refreshing break. New and long time fans of racing alike will find this book's steady stream of anecdotes to be very difficult to put down.
Rascals and Racehorses has a list price of $24.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $17.47. If you enjoy Campbell's writing and are looking for an introduction to owning thoroughbreds, check out his first book Lightning in a Jar.
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