This is the latest painting off the easel. It’s the Eclipse Award winning colt Lookin At Lucky who raced for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. Trained by Bob Baffert, Lucky is easy to spot with Bob’s trademark shadow roll. Lookin At Lucky’s stakes wins include the Grade 1 Haskell and the Preakness. This painting taken from the source photo of Pimlico track photographer Jim McCue shows the colt breaking out of the pack as the field enters the stretch during the Preakness. As an artist I was so awed by this photo that I had to paint it – with one slight adjustment. Lucky was shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the field, but in the painting I’ve moved him forward by increasing his size – instead of a painting of several horses battling for the lead – what we have is a champion breaking clear of the pack and all eyes on are on him; so everybody is Lookin At Lucky.
Thoroughbred artist Robert Clark, in collaboration with Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders/Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, announced a new presentation at the annual Derby Trainers Dinner on Tuesday, May 3, 2011. Every year, the dinner hosts the trainers of Kentucky Derby contenders and honors the trainer of the previous year’s Kentucky Derby winner. This year it will host 2010 winner Super Saver’s trainer, Todd Pletcher. In addition to the traditional KTOB/KTA Trainer’s Award statuette, this year’s honoree will recieve an original oil painting by Robert Clark, of Super Saver splashing home to win the 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
“I’ve been a fan of Todd’s for years and to help honor his first Kentucky Derby victory is a real privilege for me,” Clark said. “The Trainers Dinner is one of the most entertaining pre-Derby events I get to attend. The camaraderie and mutual respect that these great horsemen show for one another is wonderful, especially when you know they’re all trying to beat each other on race day!” From his studio in Melbourne, Florida, Clark has painted many of the biggest stars of Thoroughbred racing, including a portrait of 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta which brought $4,700 at the recent Ocala Horse Farm Chaplaincy Call to Post Event to benefit Ocala area horse farm workers.
The Derby Trainers Dinner will be held Tuesday night, May 3, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.
It was my privledge to paint the two time Eclipse Award winner at the Fasig Tipton sale at Palm Meadows on March 3rd. Fasig Tipton utilized the training facility for their Florida sale for the first time after several years at Calder Race Course in Miami (with the an exception being the year they held it at Ocala a few years ago). Palm Meadows and Fasig Tipton worked together to put on a great presentation for the horses and pleasant environment for the people.
Gio Ponti came out of this sale three years ago and since then has gone on to win two Eclipse Awards. As his owner Shane Ryan of Castleton Lyons said when accepting the second Eclipse Award at the Fountainblue in Miami Beach, “We lost to Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup and won an Eclipse Award, then we got beat by Goldikova in the Breeders’ Cup and won a second Eclipe Award; two of the best fillies on the race track . . . all we have to do is figure out who the best filly is next year and lose to her in the Breeders’ Cup.” – - You just have to admire a great since of humor while paying a compliment to all three of these champions. And yes, Gio Ponti is still in training. His trainer, Christophe Clement, came by during the sale and commented that he had just left Gio Ponti at the training barn and it looks like he followed him over to the sale becuase it looks just like him.
Thanks go out to Jeff Coady, the track photographer at Keeneland and Oaklawn for the wonderful source photo for this painting.
The 2011 Eclipse Awards have crowned the respective champions in the various divisions. Congratulations to all the winners – and candidly congratulations to anyone who was nominated or had a horse that was nominated. The ceremony was filled with laughs, tears, and tension as the Horse of the Year announcement approached, how fitting that Big Drama was named the winner in the Male Sprinter division. It was great to see the absolute joy of people like Mike Repole with Uncle Mo and hear him in his New York accent delivering a message that would have made a Southern Baptist minister proud as he stirred the crowd; Marylou Whitney gave a speech for the ages and one of the best that I’ve heard in any venue. I was touched by the care and love that Ken Ramsey shows with the way he always is beside his ill wife, Sarah’s side, as he accepted their award. It was nice to see Harold Plumley on stage as the breeder of Dubai Majesty; Mr. Plumley and I both called Paris, TN our home for many years and as a kid I was always playing on or against a baseball or football team that his company sponsored. The moment that everyone was waiting for was announcement of Horse of the Year, which everyone knew was going to be close. Each side had compelling reasons for their horse – Blame and Zenyatta both had great years, they both won the award for their division; but in the end the horse that brought the fans to the track in droves, created national media attention the likes of which this sport hasn’t seen in years – that was the horse that won and that horse is Zenyatta.
With the debate over this vote starting the instant the Breeders’ Cup Classic was over, it was clear that for this year’s Eclipse Award the only fair way to honor both horses was to paint both of them for this event. I am very honored to be a repeat guest of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters at their events. To be there painting on both Blame and Zenyatta was a thrill, but I can also say that while so many people formed their opinions over the last couple months – I painted every day on these paintings for over a month and that same question kept going through my mind over and over again . . . and it seemed that whichever one I was painted on at any given moment that was where all my attention was. As it was my honor to work on these paintings at the Eclipse Awards, it is also my honor to share both of them with you here.
The Eclipse Awards are just around the corner and the big question of who will be Horse of the Year will be answered. I’ll be at the Fountainbleau along with a few hundred other people from the horse racing industry. There will be the usual gathering of owners and breeders. With Gulfstream Park just around the corner there will be plenty of jockeys and trainers, more than just the handful nominated for the awards. The media will be there as both horse racing networks (TVG and HRTV) and ESPN will have their people there . . . and then there’s me . . . just a guy with his paint brush, palette, and a couple canvases. I’ll be there working on the final stages of two paintings of the horses at the center of the storm for HoY: Zenyatta and Blame. To some the obvious painting was to paint the Breeders’ Cup Classic with both horses (which has been voted the moment of the year in horse racing), but that might not do justice to both horses’ accomplishments; so, I’ve painted Zenyatta winning the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn. Oaklawn uses a light pink saddle cloth for all entries in the Apple Blossom, which goes great with the Moss silks as she is painted in front of a backdrop of pastel spring blossoms. Blame is painted winning the Whitney at Saratoga as he wins an exciting stretch duel over the pre-race favorite Quality Road. After working on these two paintings for a couple weeks it was announced that Marylou Whitney would be receiving a special Eclipse Award for her lifetime contributions of to the sport. It’s nice that the Whitney name is promenently displayed on the Blame saddle cloth; not only are the two HoY candidates represented in the paintings, but so too are all three of the groups receiving special Eclipse Awards: Team Zenyatta, Claiborne Farm (partners on Blame and where he has gone to stud), and Marylou Whitney on the saddle cloth . . . see, I knew there was a reason I wasn’t painting the BC Classic.
I am honored to paint at the Eclipse Awards as the guest of the National Turf Writers & Broadcasters Association in conjunction with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The proceeds of the painting of the Horse of the Year will be donated to the NTRA Charities. I’m proud of the relationship and mutual respect I have with the NTWBA whom I began painting for 5 years at ago at their awards banquet and first painted for them at the Eclipse Awards 3 years ago.
I have no idea how the vote for Horse of the Year turned out; both of these paintings were started long before the votes were counted. Next week, I’ll post the two paintings . . . until then . . . “down the stretch they come!”
Here is the painting I started drawing back in July. The subject is Backtalk, the Smarty Jones colt, raced by Paul Bulmahn’s Goldmark Farm. The painting shows Backtalk winning the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga in 2009 using track photographer Adam Coglianese’s wonderful finish line photo of the race. This canvas is 48″ x 66″, while time involved in finishing the painting will take several months; it’s a great time to share the step by step development of a painting. In addition to the full painting, I anticpate showing close ups of specific areas with each subsequent layer to demonstrate the increased detail and the increased richness of color.
The painting is finally finished after the better part of 4 months. The progression of photos shows the development of the whole painting from drawing through the first layer to cover the canvas and through each subsequent layer – 5 layers passing over the entire surface of the painting to get the colors exactly where I wanted them in rich vibrant tones and the details kept refining with each later. You can back a cake without eggs, you can even take it of the oven after five minutes instead of the thirty the recipe calls for, however if anyone is going to taste it, then the chef can’t rush it or take short cuts. No matter how much icing you put on a bad cake, it’s still a bad cake. I hope you appreciate that when I paint, perfection is the goal. While I understand nobody’s perfect and perfection in art is a myth, that’s still no excuse for not trying to achieve it. I’m very pleased with the Backtalk painting and hopefully sharing it with you each step of the way, has helped you appreciate the process and left you wanting seconds.
Lisa Hall at the at the Aiken T-bred HoF along with Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stables support came up with a fun contest for kids; a coloring book competitoin. I am attaching a photo of the winners that was taken at the Dogwood Stable office this past Friday. Mary Jane Howell and Jack Sadler of Dogwood Stable are in the back and the winners from left to right are: 3rd place – Savannah Spoon, 1st Place – Jaslyn Croft, 2nd Place – Karlee Barton. This was a fan event for the kids and I was happy to provide some poster, post cards, and Dream Race books for the winners. Congratulations to the winners.
I’ve been painting live at sales in Kentucky for several years and for the last few years I’d be joined most days by a man that loved to talk and when he wasn’t talking he was smiling from ear to ear. When I arrived in Lexington last week for the Fasig Tipton, I was informed by Gary Falter that his business partner and our mutual friend, Ben Young, had passed away. It was then that I realized I didn’t really know anything about Ben, for all his talking he was a private fellow. As it turns out Ben was an actor, even appearing in a few movies with John Wayne. Ben’s claim to fame was that he was the Camel smoker in the cigarette ads; which may explain how Ben spent many of his remaining years flying all over the world to pick up bone marrow to be used in life saving transplants. All I ever knew of Ben was that he loved horses and horse racing. He moved to Kentucky from California five years ago to be in the heart of the industry. He later took a night watchman job at Calumet just for the thrill of working at the legendary farm. Ben and Gary would breed a few horses together, one of which was sold at Saratoga to Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Planation. The beautiful tall filly by Point Given would be named Points of Grace. I saw her for the first time the night she went through the Saratoga sale. She then went to the Ocala farm to be trained by Johnny Collins at Live Oak. I got to see her there on several occasions, afterwards I would always give Ben a report on this spectacular big red filly. Live Oak & Johnny took their time getting her to the track where she is still racing and winning. Ben and I had a secret that when she finally would win her Grade 1 race he was going to have me paint her as a gift to Gary. Ironically, I learned of Ben’s passing the day after Awesome Gem won the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup gaining his first Grade 1 (read the previous blog about Clyde Haugen and Awesome Gem). Plans are being made for a memorial service for Ben in August or September, at which time his ashes will be scattered at the Calumet cemetary along the graves of Citation, Bull Lea, and Whirlaway. During Ben’s last days he assured his friends that he’ll be in heaven holding the gates for everyone, but what else would you expect from a Point of Grace?
I lost my racing buddy, Clyde Haugen, about 18 months ago. He owned shares of about 20 different horses through West Point Thoroughbreds. Clyde was my only local client here in Indian Harbour Beach, FL., but he had become much more than a client. He passed away just a couple days before leaving to watch his favorite horse, Awesome Gem race in Hong Kong. Clyde and I had a standing agreement that I would paint all of his Grade 1 winners; he called me from the Belmont winner’s circle when Lear’s Princess upset Rags To Riches to win her G1. “Get the paints out!” Time went by and Clyde and West Point had other G1 winners, but Awesome Gem was so close many times, but unable to win that elusive Grade 1 stakes race. I told Clyde that Awesome Gem didn’t need a Grade 1 win for me to paint him; Clyde was so happy as he took it as a honor for Gem. Less than a week later, Clyde passed away. I went to the dog track where we had watched many races together and left my Awesome Gem pin over the bar, where it still hangs to this day.
Last week on my drive to Kentucky for the Fasig Tipton sale I was listening to the races on sirius radio; Awesome Gem went to the post as an under dog in the Hollywood Gold Cup. As I drove through the mountains of Kentucky I listened as the seven year old Awesome Gem came through on the rail and captured his Grade 1 while breaking the $2 million mark in earnings. I thought of how Clyde would gather his family together for the big races and how this horse helped bring his family consisting of five daughters scattered all across the country together through racing. Clyde fought cancer for over 20 years and offered encouragement to so many people who were fighting their own battles with the disease. I’ve been with him when he’d overhear complete strangers talking about cancer, only to have Clyde go into a motivational type pep talk and offer to stay in contact if he could be of help. Clyde was a good man, a good friend, and good human being . . . and all he ever wanted was Awesome Gem to win a Grade 1; was that too much to ask? Evidently, it wasn’t. Somewhere Clyde is smiling while I was driving with tears in my eyes thinking of my friend and his favorite horse.
This is the painting for Clyde of Lear’s Princess. He called from the winner’s circle just minutes after she crossed the finish line, “Get out the paints”.
I’m getting ready to leave for a week in Kentucky where I’ll be painting at the Fasig Tipton sale. I’ll be finishing the painting of Seattle Smooth that I’ve been working on for the past month. Seattle Smooth raced for Mercedes Stables and was bought as a yearling at the July Fasig Tipton sale in 2006. She recently retired as a million dollar earning Grade 1 winner. It’s great to be welcomed back to the sale and to be painting another outstanding Fasig Tipton graduate in Seattle Smooth. Here is the painting in progress -