Mar 30

Mucho Macho Mania!

Dean and Patti Reeves, their racing manager Finn Green, trainer Kathy Ritvo and jockey Gary Stevens have teamed up with the big bay horse, Mucho Macho Man, to create one of the best stories in racing.  Quick review for those of you who weren’t watching:  Jockey comes out of a seven year retirement to ride at the sport’s highest level including a Classic victory in the Preakness:  Trainer becomes the only woman trainer to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and did so after having a heart transplant: Owners gave a check equal to the full jockey’s portion to the horse’s previous rider (Eibar Coa), who was in the hospital with a career ending injury instead of in the saddle during the G2 Risen Star Stakes at The Fair Grounds.

Mucho Macho Man has stayed on the track as his connections let the horse dictate his racing schedule and in the process has won in excess of $5 million dollars, but he’s not done yet.  He captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2013 after a strong effort in the 2012 Classic, finishing second.  Many thought he was done after 2012, not so; many thought he was done after 2013; not so; but this year will be his last year racing as he will be going to stand stud at Adena Springs in Kentucky. The horse is most closely associated with Gulfstream Park, his home base, and it was a pleasure to watch him dance away from the rest of the field in the Sunshine Millions Classic on his home course.  I look forward to watching every race he runs this year knowing that he and his connections always give us something good to route for. 

Feb 15

Groupie Doll: New Silks, Same Star

Groupie Doll is one of those horses that racing fans collectively love to route for.  And why not after taking down Breeders’ Cup victories in consecutive years? Owned and trained by the Bradley family with Buff doing most of the heavy lifting; Groupie Doll went through the Keeneland sales ring the week after her second Breeders’ Cup win.  The winning bidder was Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm; making Groupie Doll the latest edition to the all-star broodmare band.  Mandy’s only thought was to get her in foal and move on with being a mommy. However, Buff shared with Mandy the fact that The Doll still had the ability and most of all the desire to race.  Before Groupie Doll would go to Timber Town Stables, she made a trip to Florida and back into training.  She was conditioned at Paul Bulmahn’s GoldMark Farm in Ocala by farm manager / trainer Todd Quast.  When she was ready she went back to Buff Bradley at the track and claimed the first stakes win for Mandy at Gulfstream in the GIII Hurricane Bertie under a brilliant ride by Rajiv Maragh.  It was one of the most emotional wins for an owner, for a trainer and former owner, and for an entire race track full of groupies.  I was putting final touches on this painting in the paddock at Gulfstream; instead of running to the Winner’s Circle to join Mandy, Todd, and Buff; I just sat down by the fountain in the paddock and savored a very special moment. 

Jan 31

Wise Dan Deja Vu

 

The 2013 Horse of the Year looks a lot like the 2012 Horse of the Year and the simple explanation is that Wise Dan has done it again.  His 2013 campaign is probably more impressive than his first HOY campaign as Dan’s record was unblemished with one exception and that was a race at Keeneland that was washed off the turf to the dirt (more accurately mud).  Wise Dan took his total Eclipse Award count to six in two years, a new record.  He also won his second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Turf Championship.  Bred and raced by Mort Fink, the gelding is by Wiseman’s Ferry who stands at Dana Point Farm in Pennsylvania where this painting will be hanging.  This painting portrays his first BC win with Eclipse Award winning jockey Johnny Velazquez in the irons.  Finishing this painting at the 2014 Eclipse Awards party on Friday night marked the fourth time that I’ve been honored to paint at the sport’s hallmark event.

Dec 30

Plum Pretty: what’s in a name?

In the world of racehorses, it’s nice to have a horse that looks good, but in reality it’s about having fast horses.  Some will tell you that the best horses have good looks, but it’s not always the case.  How many humans can win the Miss America contest and an Olympic Gold Medal?  (That is a fair comparison from this artist’s point of view.  I think earned the right to my opinion after 30 years painting some of best racehorses and some of the most beautiful Arabians in the world.) That is exactly how I would describe Plum Pretty.  Her win in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs elevated her among racing’s elite; the flowers around her neck in the Winner’s Circle might as well have been a gold medal.  After her racing career Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm bought Pretty and sent her to Timber Town Stable in Lexington, KY.  I went there to see a few of Mandy’s mares.  She is building one of the classiest small band of broodmares anywhere.  When I arrived at Timber Town I wasn’t prepared for this amazingly beautiful Medalia d’Oro mare to walk up and make my eyes pop out.  She truly is Plum Pretty and wearing plum purple silks of John and Elizabeth Fort’s Peachtree Stables may have made the name an obvious choice, but it was none the less the perfect choice. For as good as she was as an athlete, she is every bit as stunning in any beauty contest.  

Dec 22

In the eyes of the Beholder

In Beholder’s case, beauty can come in many ways; her stunning good looks or the way she moves around the track.  Something she did so well that she captured back-to-back Eclipse Awards for Spendthrift Farm.  At the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mare Classic Gary Stevens rode her. However, in 2012 when she won the BC Juvenile Fillies race Gary was a retired jockey doing television commentary.  That night we were sitting in Gary’s RV at Santa Anita Park when my friend Travis Hembd, the human racing encyclopedia, nudged me and said, “I think Gary is going to come back”.  It was too crazy an idea to even entertain at the time.  A year later and we have further proof beauty can be many things, like watching a Hall of Fame jockey masterfully boot home an athletic horse like Beholder.

Nov 21

Grace after the race

The past decade can be called The Decade of the Filly as the sport produced a handful of the greatest female race horses we’ve seen in the past century.  There was Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra that captured everyone’s fascination; each taking home the Horse of the Year honors.  Then one more followed on their heels. Maybe not with the national fanfare of the previuos two, but her accomplishments on the track and verses the boys spoke volumes.  In the process Havre de Grace wrote her name into the history of Thoroughbred racing when she claimed Horse of the Year honors.  She is from the one and only foal crop of another Horse of the Year, the ill-fated Saint Liam.  He was to be the next link in a special bloodline and now Grace may be left with the largest portion of the task to continue that legacy.  You can bet she will be given every chance to do so by her owner Mandy Pope who loves her horses and will do whatever it takes to give them the best home and raise the best babies; I for one can’t wait to see where we go from here.  This is Grace painted at Cathy and Wayne Sweezey’s Timber Town Stable, her Kentucky home.   Mandy asked me to add Gracie, the Norwich Terrier, to the painting making for a fun scene – of course she is named after Havre de Grace.

Sep 28

War in the Bluegrass

The spring meet at Keeneland is highlighted by the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes.  It is also one of the major qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby.  The 2013 Bluegrass was a battle of wills and in the end the battle would be decided by war, Java’s War.  He is homebred of Charles Fipke and by the Eclipse Award winning War Pass.  In the Bluegrass he took on a staked field of contenders and this painting shows two of them in Stephen’s Kitten and Palace Malice .  Palace Malice went on to have a great three year old campaign, but on this day it was about the stretch drive as Julien Leparoux guided Java’s War through the trenches on his way to victory. 

Sep 02

Alpha and Golden Ticket 2012 Travers

The 2012 Travers could be the greatest example of how David and Goliath can come together on the racecourse.  Alpha was one of long line of stars in His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum Darley Stables.  Alpha’s pedigree was Thoroughbred royalty as the son of Bernardini, the outstanding Classic winner by A.P. Indy who was also raced by Sheikh Mohammed.  Also, in the Travers field was a lightly raced son of Speightstown who came into the race as a long shot flying under the radar in a field of stars headed the Sheikh’s horse.  As they broke from the gate Golden Ticket went out and set a hot pace and dared the field to come after him.  As the finish line approached it was going to be too close to call and after a long delay, the 2012 Travers was declared the first dead heat (tie) in the Travers since the innovation of the photo finish.  (The first Travers was declared a dead heat by judges using their naked eye.)  Golden Ticket’s owners are a group of friends from Montana new to the sport of racing. They had just taken their first stakes win, a Grade 1 at one of the most prestigious locations in the Sport of Kings. In the process they had tied one of the sport’s most powerful stables in the world, making one of the most powerful metaphorical statements about the greatness of horse racing’s broad appeal across cultures and classes, a sport where the underdog always has a chance.  Even the comparison of the two jockeys was one of varying degrees of accomplishment and experience as Alpha was ridden by the Eclipse Award winner Ramon Dominguez and the metaphorical David was ridden by David Cohen for his first Grade 1 victory. 

Aug 15

Forever Together another Augustin Stable Star

The gray Belong To Me filly, Forever Together, is portrayed winning the second of her G1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga.  She would go on to win the Eclipse Award as the Champion Turf Mare of 2008.  George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable raced her.  Mr. Strawbridge’s good fortune continued when Informed Decision won an Eclipse Award in 2010.  Forever Together and Informed Decision gave Augustin Stable a formidable duo of champions trained by Hall of Fame trainer, Jonathan Sheppard. 

Jul 28

Golden Ticket

Golden Ticket is a speedy, red horse that roared like a beast as he burst into the spot light on the stage of one of our sport’s greatest theaters.  It was Saratoga 2012.  The Grade 1 Travers is the premier race for 3 year olds at the Spa. What happened that day was another chapter in the lore of the Graveyard of Favorites as long shot Golden Ticket tied the heavily favored Alpha.  I was fortunate to meet Carter Stewart at the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita a couple months after Golden Ticket’s dead heat in the Travers.  We agreed to do two paintings of Golden Ticket. As we talked about the details of the painting, Carter asked if we had to show the other horse.  I informed him it was his painting and he could do as he wished.  “In that case, leave him out!” So, this is Golden Ticket winning the Travers all by himself . . . the second painting we planned on showing both Golden Ticket and Alpha approaching the finish line; but for the sake of art and the power it has to color history – here is Golden Ticket flying along the historic architecture of Saratoga Race Course.

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