Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘Giving Is The Most Selfish Thing We Do’

After nearly a year of his trips to the racetracks becoming few and far between, Alex Campbell Jr. wasn’t going to let anything stop him from attending Preakness day at Pimlico. The nonagenarian had fallen at his home in Florida the night before, however, and was in the hospital past two o’clock in the morning with a head injury.

Doctors used staples to close the wound and cleared Campbell to fly to Baltimore, where the long-time Thoroughbred enthusiast was delighted to watch his homebred filly Mean Mary win the Grade 3 Gallorette Stakes by a half-length.

Thanks to vigilant efforts from Pimlico staff, Campbell even made his way to the winner’s circle to congratulate jockey Luis Saez and trainer Graham Motion on the victory.

“It was the nicest thing in the world,” Campbell said. “The management of the track got me through traffic, got me good seats, and just couldn’t have been nicer to me. It’s good to know that there are still people like that in our business.”

He wouldn’t bestow the same praise on himself, but the evidence couldn’t be more clear: Campbell is also one of the good guys. Not only has he been breeding and owning racehorses for more than six decades, but he dedicates himself to supporting trainers with integrity.

“It’s a tremendous sport and a tremendous challenge to do it properly,” Campbell explained. “I’ve been with Motion for five or six years, and he’s the best trainer I’ve ever had, by far. I think he treats horses like they ought to be treated.

“I went out after him because I wanted him for a trainer; I thought he met all of the qualifications that I like, not only around the racetrack, but anywhere. He’s a fine young man and he thinks right about most things. I don’t know of a better living trainer today.”

Campbell also serves as a member of The Jockey Club, a position he credits the late “Dinny” Phipps with inspiring.

“Dinny Phipps did a wonderful job as president, and it operates as a business,” Campbell said. “For example, there was a girl who broke her neck and was frozen from the neck down for life. I called to see what they could do about getting something for her to get around in, and in about two days she had a brand new car that she could wheel her wheelchair into. It was so impressive not only because of the money it cost, but the performance on getting it there. 

“They do that all over the country, and they’ve helped a lot of people over the years.”

Learn more about the Jockey Club’s Safety Net Foundation in this story from our archives.

A native of Lexington, Ky., Campbell has also quietly become one of the city’s greatest philanthropists. He launched the Triangle Foundation in 1980, and chaired the creation of Triangle Park in downtown Lexington. Over the years, the Triangle Foundation has completed a number of other projects in the city, including the Equestrian Park at Blue Grass Airport, Thoroughbred Park, and Woodland Skateboard Park.

Perhaps Campbell’s most visible addition to Lexington is the statue of Secretariat located in the center of a traffic circle at the intersection of Alexandria Drive and Old Frankfort Pike.

“There are ten people on the executive committee of the Triangle Foundation, and I said, ‘How about each one of you all say who you think is the greatest racehorse who ever lived,’” Campbell recalled. “Out of ten men, only three votes were for Secretariat. That was 50 years ago when he was running, so he just wasn’t in these people’s minds.

“You know that Secretariat holds the track record at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont, and those guys had no conception of that thought. I just thought we ought to do something about Secretariat.”

Secretariat and Ron Turcotte monument is unveiled at Keeneland

Washington sculptor Jocelyn Russell made the Secretariat statue in Oklahoma, and it was transported to Lexington. The 3,800-pound Secretariat, 21 feet long and over 11 feet high, was installed October 14, 2019.

“I have a funny saying, and fortunately all of my children have adopted it, that ‘giving is the most selfish thing we do,’” Campbell said. “The reason for that is that the receiver always gets more than the giver. In proportion it means very little to you, when they come to thank you you get your investment back. My son has the job of putting my little saying on my tombstone. It’s true, just think what you’ve done for somebody and how happy it makes you.”

In a similar vein, naming a successful racehorse for his longtime assistant Mary Venezie has been a thrill for Campbell, even though the name, Mean Mary, doesn’t match her personality at all.

“She’s the complete opposite of that, one of the sweetest, nicest, best people I know,” Campbell said, laughing. “She got a big kick out of it and she’s enjoyed every minute of it.”

So has Campbell, from attending the races to visiting his band of broodmares at Gainesway Farm. 

“Whenever I’m in Lexington, I’ll go out there and look at the horses,” he said. “I could do nothing else if I didn’t have other interests that I have to look after.”

From attending the races as a young boy and convincing older patrons to bet on his behalf, to owning his first racehorse with a couple partners at the age of 20, to celebrating last Saturday at Pimlico, Campbell remains exceptionally grateful to the horse industry for the friendships and passion it has brought to his life.

“What really holds you in the horse business is love of the horses,” he said. “And of course, talking to the trainers and going to the sales, and talking to all the people. It’s a tremendous sport.”

The post Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘Giving Is The Most Selfish Thing We Do’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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