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Oscar Nominated by Robert Clark, Artist
Oscar Nominated by Robert Clark, Artist

by Robert Clark

I apologize to my friends who know racing, but I realize that I have a lot of friends and family that don't. So, here is a crash course in the various levels of races to help you get the story that follows.

Races are divided into categories based upon the quality of the competition, the purse and the prestige, which I think are all related to the entrance qualifications. Typically, the more money a race pays, the better the competition. The highest level of quality are stakes races. In North America we call them graded stakes races and Europe calls them Group races, deeming the highest of those as Grade 1 down through Grade 2 and Grade 3. After that you have allowance races that you might equate to the Triple AAA level of baseball.

Generally, the lowest level in racing are claiming races. Here is the catch, if you are in a claiming race, that means anybody can "claim" your horse from that race. – I In other words, they throw their name in the box with your horse's name and they buy it from you at a set price based upon the race. YES, you can lose your horse by racing him/her in a race! Imagine you own a baseball team and the other teams want your pitcher and the only way they can "steal" him from you, is if you play him. That might be over simplified, but that's claiming in a nutshell.

Here is a collection of some of my favorite works and the stories of how I came to know the horses and their people.


Oscar Performance by Robert Clark, Artist
Oscar Performance by Robert Clark, Artist

I am including this racing primer to help tell this story. Oscar Performance has a full brother named, Oscar Nominated. They are both out of a mare owned by John and Jerry Amerman, who I had gotten to know more than 10 years ago when I painted their retired race horse Balance. The Amermans are the salt of the earth. They operate an equine rehab center in Temecula, CA called Peacefield Farm. Again, John is another owner whose life would make for a great story on its own.

Back when I was painting Balance, at dinner one night, I asked both of them why they got into horse racing. John said that all of his career as the CEO of a few companies, they had to move all over the world, they went and did what John and his career dictated. When he retired, he asked Jerry what she wanted to do - it was all her call.

Jerry looked right at me and said, "When I was a little girl, I took the cover of LIFE magazine with the painting of Armed by Richard Stone Reeves and I put it on my wall. I remember when I came home after college that painting was still on my wall and I thought about never having a horse. When he retired, I still had never had a horse. I told John that I wanted to have a horse."

Side note: some people think of me as the post card guy, when I'm painting live I give out packs of post cards primarily to kids. I'd been doing that for a few years, back when Jerry told this story, and it reaffirmed my personal Johnny Appleseed scenario of planting seeds to grow the love of horses and horse racing.

Fast forward about ten years to Turfway Park, where I'm going to paint the winner of the previous year's featured race at the track, The Spiral Stakes (later renamed the Jeff Ruby Steaks.) The horse I painted was Oscar Nominated who won for Ken & Sarah Ramsey, but I was intrigued to see the horse was bred by John and Jerry Amerman. In looking at his past performance, I saw that Ramsey had claimed Oscar Performance from the Amermans. I'm sure there was a conversation with the trainer about going into a claiming race and the thought they could run and not get claimed . . . oops.

Later that year in 2016, another horse with a similar name popped onto the scene. It was Oscar Performance, who was never going to be put into a claiming race, they weren’t going to let that happen again. Oscar Performance went onto a great racing career winning $2.3 million, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in the process.

Both Oscars were out of the mare, Devine Actress and by the Ramsey's superstar stallion, Kitten's Joy. That’s why they shared similar names.

When I talked with John about having Oscar Nominated claimed away from them, in typical Amerman fashion, he was polite and complimentary saying that "Ramsey did more with him than we would have. He did us a favor." This man is another example of class, and trust me, I want him to have another Oscar or two for the shelf! Extra: I just remembered that the two long numbers in the top the tote board at John and Jerry's birthdays. 12-8-32 and 9-11-37 - it was John's 80th birthday present to Jerry in 2017.

Oscar Performance now stands in Kentucky at Mill Ridge Farm, included in our Thoroughbred Breeding section.


Majestic Warrior by Robert Clark, Artist
Majestic Warrior by Robert Clark, Artist

As an artist traveling in the horse world circles, my skills as a fly on the wall ninja artist do come in handy. Here's an example of that . . . I happened to be in Ocala visiting Jim Scott at his office at Kinsman Farm, George Steinbrenner's farm. George is the late owner of the NY Yankees. It was a Sunday morning and we were just talking about horses like Bellamy Road. I watched the Saratoga races the day before and Jim and I were talking about this Kinsman Farm 2-year-old that blistered the field on his debut, the first race of his career. He won a really tough maiden race, which is run by non-winners. It was a performance that had us talking about the potential of Majestic Warrior. "Mr. Steinbrenner thinks this might be the last derby horse. He really wants to see his silks in the Kentucky Derby one more time." While we were sitting at his desk the phone rang and it was someone offering to buy Majestic Warrior for a cool million dollars. Without hesitation, Jim said, "Mr. Steinbrenner thinks this could be his last derby horse. He's not for sale." End of call.

Not even five minutes go by and the phone rings again. It's Darley, Sheikh Mohammed's farm calling and they want to buy Majestic Warrior. The offer was $7 million dollars. Again, without hesitation Jim says, "Mr. Steinbrenner thinks this might be his last derby horse. He's not for sale." End of the call.

Less than another five minutes go by and the phone rings again. It's the guy who called the first time with the million dollar offer. In ten minutes, his new offer was TWO million dollars. Jim kind of chuckled and said, "Since the last time you called, I already turned down $7 million. . . ." End of call.

On the last day of the Saratoga meet is the big race for 2-year-olds, The Hopeful. Historically, this race generally anoints (if even momentarily) the favorite for the next year's Kentucky Derby. Majestic Warrior went out and took care of business winning comfortably. I can remember thinking, “Mr. Steinbrenner has a derby horse”.

Then, the strangest thing happened . . . a deal was made for a large portion of the horse. Half? more? less? how much? I've heard all kinds of things . . . but it wasn't like I was sitting at Jim's desk when that call came in . . . so, your guess is as good as mine (the numbers I've heard would knock paint off the barn). The caveat to making the deal with Coolmore was that Majestic Warrior would continue to carry the Kinsman Farm silks when he raced. When he gets to the Kentucky Derby, he was going to wear the Mr. Steinbrenner's colors, WAS being the key word. After all that, the irony is that Majestic Warrior never ran in the Kentucky Derby as he retired with an injury.

His strong pedigree and being one of the last great AP Indy sons, Majestic Warrior would have stallion career. In his first crop he produced the Grade 1-million-dollar winning filly Princess of Sylmar, who was edged out of an Eclipse Award by Beholder. That's some high cotton, right there.

MAJESTIC WARRIOR stands in Japan at East Stud, included in our Thoroughbred Breeding section.


Rock Hard Ten by Robert Clark, Artist
Rock Hard Ten by Robert Clark, Artist

There are so many stories about Rock Hard Ten, his name, his connections (like where Ernie Moody made his money is one of those truly amazing rags to riches stories, but let's just talk about his horse.)

I painted Rock Hard Ten for Ernie while he was still racing back in 2005. I was introduced to Ernie through Dave Williams that operated Horse Hats. Dave made hats for many of the owners of successful race horses. His garage was the candy store of horse hats, literally horse hats - the company and the hats. From 2003 - 2008 roughly, almost every horse I painted, Horse Hats had their hats and I had a collection of more than 100 hats of horses that I had painted. My studio in Florida had about 75 of them around the top of walls over a few of my prints.

Ernie was all about promoting Rock Hard Ten. Of course, the slogan on all the memorabilia was "Rock Hard Ten: Size Does Matter".

Rock Hard Ten was on the path to run in the Breeders Cup at Belmont Park in 2005 and he was the favorite heading into the weekend. Ernie liked the painting so much that he thought it would be great to make posters of the painting with the slogan to hand out to people as they entered Belmont for the Breeders' Cup. I put Ernie in contact with my printer that had been making my post cards and calendars. They do great work and as a wholesale printer, they always had great prices. I let them work out the business side of things. On our end, we handled getting the images over to them and my brother, Brian, did the graphic design of the poster. A week before the Breeders' Cup several large boxes of posters, maybe 10,000 of them, were shipped to Belmont Park. They were going to arrive just a day or two before the race . . . and just a day before the race Rock Hard Ten sustained a hoof injury causing him to scratch from the race.

I honestly have no idea what ever happened to the posters. We are talking about several large boxes - where did they go? I still have no idea, I have never even seen one of the posters. That would be one collectable I would love to have, much less even to see one. Fifteen years later I wonder if they were sent to Africa like the shirts of the losing team in the Super Bowl. And yes, that's Gary Stevens.

A side note to this story is that after this story on Rock Hard Ten posted on the web, a reader wrote back that she had one of these posters of Rock Hard Ten and sent the image.

It was the first time I saw one of the posters, fifteen years after they disappeared. She found it in a stack of marketing material at Churchill Downs. Now, the question is – where are the other 9,999 posters?

Rock Hard Ten stands in Korea at Jeju Stud Farm, included in our Thoroughbred Breeding section.


Ghostzapper by Robert Clark, Artist
Ghostzapper by Robert Clark, Artist
Ghostzapper by Robert Clark, Artist
Ghostzapper by Robert Clark, Artist

I've always felt a connection with this horse. It started when I was painting live in Lexington, oblivious as usual to the rest of the world, just painting with blinders on as the people bustled around, horses to the left and horses to the right. A little while later someone interrupted me to say, "Did you notice that guy standing over your shoulder?" "No."

"That was Frank Stronach. He's walked up to watch you paint a couple times. You might want to pay better attention."

I knew who he was, but had never met him and I just went back to painting. Later that day, a man with a heavy accent says something polite about my artwork., I wasn't really exactly sure what he said, but a sincere "Thank you" always works.

The next day he came back again and this time he went into a conversation about painting Ghostzapper, who he bred, raced, and retired to stud at his farm Adena Springs. He won the Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Sstar Park that Stronach owned. He then finished his 5-year-old campaign winning the Met Mile at Belmont Park, but retired after an injury in the race. He was undefeated in four starts as a 4-year-old, but they were big wins on the way to being named Horse of the Year.

When Frank received the painting of Ghostzapper winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he was happy, but quickly added that he likes the legs in his paintings, and then asked me to go to the farm to see the paintings by Richard Stone Reeves of his stallions. The paintings were wonderful and fairly large. Frank then said, "You are the next Richard Stone Reeves. I need you to do the same thing of Ghostzapper." To this day, the conformation painting of Ghostzapper hangs at Adena Springs in Paris, Kentucky; even though the background is actually from the Adena Springs Farm down by Midway, KY, before it relocated to Paris.

When I went to the farm, I was able to see both Ghostzapper and his sire, Awesome Again, one after another. I've seen lots of progeny, but I don't know that I have ever seen such a carbon copy as Ghostzapper was of Awesome Again (who was also a Breeders' Cup Classic winner in 1998.)

Fun side note: When Ed Bowen and I were putting together the book, "A Brush With Greatness", we were getting owners' quotes on all the horses. I have to admit, Frank's quote on Ghostzapper was probably the most unexpected surprise out of all of them. To paraphrase, Frank said that when it was time to name the colt, he looked at his calendar and realized that the Breeders' Cup would be held at one of his tracks, Lone Star, on Halloween in 2004 and he was targeting the colt to win the Classic. He thought the name Ghostzapper would make for a good name for a horse to win that race on Halloween, even though it would be three more years after naming the horse, until the Breeders’ Cup would be at Lone Star Park. You heard it here first, unless you already have the book!

Ghostzapper now stands in Kentucky at Adena Springs, included in our Thoroughbred Breeding section.


Bellamy Road by Robert Clark, Artist
Bellamy Road by Robert Clark, Artist

This was one of George Steinbrenner's best race horses and he's gone on to be pretty good stallion as well. It wasn't that long ago that I told the story about working on this painting in the paddock at Saratoga as a commission. I had to explain to the family that bred Bellamy Road that the painting wasn't for sale, but their persistence paid off, when Jim Scott, Mr. Steinbrenner's farm manager, said it was ok to sell this one and we'd do another painting.

BUT, that isn't today's story. When I was going through lots of photos to make the decision as to what to paint, I was pulled towards this image of Bellamy Road and Javier Castellano crossing the finish line. Javier is kissing the whip in his hand and I knew it would present a different challenge and risks as an artist, but I couldn't back away from the challenge once I put it in those terms. Damn the torpedoes, let's paint it!

When the painting was finished, I was actually pleased that it worked. I never talked about it much, it just was what it was, and sometimes I wondered if I made the right decision or was I just being stubborn in painting Javier kissing the whip.

After all, there were other photos of Bellamy Road coming down the stretch.

Fast forward a couple years after doing the painting when I was at Ocala Stud with Richard Kent to look at one of Mr. Plumley's horses. While we were there, I asked to see Concerto who was Mr. Steinbrenner's stallion and the sire of Bellamy Road. Joe O'Farrell had the big chestnut stallion brought out for inspection. Then Joe said, "We couldn't get mares to him until Bellamy Road crossed the finish line in the Wood . . . before Javier could kiss the whip, the phone was ringing to breed to him." I said nothing, but my brain was screaming, did you hear that? Before Javier could kiss the whip, the phone was ringing! YES, I did paint the right photo!!!! Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while!

Bellamy Road is now standing in New York at Irish Hill Century Farm, included in our Thoroughbred Breeding section.


Well Armed by Robert Clark, Artist
Well Armed by Robert Clark, Artist

Ok, kids pull up a chair and daddy's gonna read you a fairy tale.

Here is the story about a horse that won the richest horse race in the world, the $6 million Dubai World Cup in 2009. He was bred by WinStar Farms, but let's not kid ourselves - this was Bill Casner's horse. Bill was a co-owner of WinStar at the time, but has since sold his interest to his former partner Kenny Troutt.

The son of Tiznow is out of one of Bill and Susan Casner's favorite mares, Well Dressed. What made his racing career so special was the fact that he HAD a racing career. Two years before winning the Dubai World Cup, Well Armed broke his pelvis bone. That's the type of injury that ends most racing careers, but Bill had faith that Well Armed could be healed and put the time and effort into giving him every chance to recover. That patience was rewarded as he worked his way back and in the process, the gelding endeared himself to the Casners.

That's not where the fairy tale ends, Bill decided when Well Armed's racing days were over that "his" horse still had plenty left in the tank for other endeavors. I'll throw out a list of things that I've heard he has done. He was Bill's roping horse for competitive team roping (Bill happens to be a member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame.) I've heard that Well Armed has been a kid's horse, and a Three Day Eventer (which includes dressage, cross country, & jumping). He's probably even lead a parade or two and saved small children from a burning building . . . (there's always hyperbole in fairy tales.)

But in the end, this fairy tale is a love story, because as you get to know Bill and Susan Casner, their story is the mushiest and cutest story I've heard and would make for a great Hallmark movie. Bill puts family first, headed by Susan, and after that his horses, headed by Well Armed.

P.S. in the painting, you see Well Armed crossing the finish line in the Dubai World Cup, behind him is the mirror for the photo finish camera. It was Bill's idea to put Well Armed's nose in the mirror. You never see anything in those mirrors in the photos, but Bill was right, it gives the painting an extra dimension, as well as another cool footnote.


I'll Have Another by Robert Clark, Artist
I'll Have Another by Robert Clark, Artist

Ok, here is your warning to either pull up a comfy chair or move along, cuz' I feel a story coming on.

I've spent the better part of my life documenting the footsteps in the history of horse racing with paint and canvas, BUT TODAY I'm going to tell the story about how my paint brush actually effected the history of horse racing! TRUE STORY

At the end of 2006, I was asked to paint Flower Alley by Eugene Melnyk, his owner. Flower Alley was still in training with Todd Pletcher and I went to get photos of him at his barn in Saratoga. I knew he was by Distorted Humor, who was a beautiful chestnut from the 49er sire line. Distorted Humor had already produced a Kentucky Derby winner in Funny Cide in his first crop.

I had a nice compliment passed along as I was preparing to do this painting of Flower Alley. There had been another painting of Flower Alley and Melnyk had commented that it "wasn't right, the color of the horse was all wrong". I was told this by Todd Pletcher's step-mother. She then went on to say, "But, I hired the best now, to get it right." I looked at Joan with a puzzled look on my face, I don't think I said anything when she added, "He was talking about you." oh . . . ok

Finally the day arrives that I'm in Saratoga and back at Todd's barn and they bring Flower Alley out. I was accompanied by pedigree expert Anne Peters, who was the matings expert for Three Chimney's Farm. Anne has one of the best eyes for horse flesh anywhere. Blood lines are not just something on paper, pedigrees are something on hooves.

Anne and I stood there looking at Flower Alley in compete awe. I was there to take the photos, but we just kept looking at each other, like are you seeing what I'm seeing?

I got my photos and ended up actually doing a racing scene of him, . . . but the image of him standing up for those photos was as close to the perfect conformation as I'd ever seen, and I’ve seen a few.

Anne took the ball and ran with it. She went back to Three Chimneys and insisted that they had to get Flower Alley. It wasn't an easy sale because the horse was having a bad 4-year-old campaign, but his 3-year-old season was one to remember, winning the Travers and running second in the Breeders' Cup Classic to Saint Liam. Anne held her ground and in the end got her way. They bought the stallion.

He finished with his final race at Churchill Downs in the Breeders' Cup and the next day he arrived at Three Chimneys at 6:00 in the morning and Anne and I were the only two people there to greet the van when he arrived. When Flower Alley walked off the van, he was magnificent looking, even more spectacular than he did in Saratoga. Eyes wide open as he scanned his new kingdom and ears perked, taking in every sound. It's sights like that, which make an artist out of all of us.

Well, this is supposed to be about I'll Have Another isn't it? A couple years later, Anne makes the recommendation for the mare Arch's Gal Edith that she be bred to Flower Alley. (Flower Alley has multiple crosses back to Mr. Prospector and Anne insisted that mares with no Mr. P would be his best match.). Arch's Gal Edith was the perfect mare for Flower Alley and the result was this beautiful chestnut colt who eventually would race for Paul Reddam, named I'll Have Another.

When his racing career was over, he was sold to Japan to the Okada family's Big Red Farm, who I painted for in the past. It was time to paint for them again. The painting of I'll Have Another is a scene from his home in Japan. In the last couple years, I'll Have Another has returned to the States.

BUT - I like to think if I wasn't sent to paint Flower Alley and if Anne Peters wasn't there to fall in love with this horse, somebody else would have won the 2012 Kentucky Derby. That's how my paint brush made a footprint in horse racing history.

I’ll Have Another now stands in California at Ballena Vista Farm, included in our Thoroughbred Breeding section.


Tale of Ekati by Robert Clark, Artist
Tale of Ekati by Robert Clark, Artist

When I was putting together the book, "A Brush With Greatness", with Ed Bowen, we were trying to start with mostly paintings that I had already completed in the previous fifteen years. We narrowed the list down to about sixty horses of the hundred and fifty that I had to pick from. All of them had to be Grade 1 winners. I had painted Charles Fipke's Java's War winning the Toyota Bluegrass at Keeneland and it was one of the paintings of horses that was going to be in the book. When I got on the phone with Mr. Fipke about being in the book, he was excited and was all for it . . . then he said, "But, I'd rather use Tale of Ekati."

Hey, if it's that important to him, then that's what we will do. I had about eighteen months until Ed would have all the text written and during that year and a half, I was dedicated to rounding out the book with horses that I hadn't painted, yet who really needed to be in there. Tale of Ekati was one that suddenly had to be painted and here he is winning the Wood Memorial over the reigning Eclipse Award winner War Pass who was undefeated as a two-year-old, a fact that still made Mr. Fipke very jovial recounting the race.

Ah, but enough about the horse . . . the really cool story here is about "Chuck". A few years earlier I was sitting at Gulfstream talking with Carl and Wanda Nafzger. Carl told me that I had to read "Fire Into Ice" - , the story about Charles Fipke. As Carl described it, it was better than Indiana Jones;, but it was real! I had the hardest time getting my hands on a copy as it was out of print, but Equine Info Exchange gave me a copy.

Carl was right, if anything he was understated when saying it was the most exciting and unbelievable real-life story. Since you might not find a copy of the book (if you can, get it!), I'll give one quick story. Chuck was often dropped out of a helicopter into crocodile filled ponds in areas with cannibals. As a geologist, he was digging for mineral samples in the South Pacific when he realized he was surrounded by cannibals. Knowing he was outnumbered and probably would be outrun, his brain took over and somehow his instincts said to "trade". He calmly took his hat off and offered it to one of the natives, in return he received a gourd (the only thing the natives were wearing.) Chuck continued to disrobe piece by piece, a shirt for another gourd, pants for another gourd, a shoe . . . finally the helicopter returned to pick up Chuck. He was standing there alone, butt-naked with a couple dozen gourds. Thanks to his quick thinking and calm response, he was alive! The entire book is like that, with truly amazing stories (and you know I love a good story!). The book is about the discovery of EKATI the largest diamond mine in Canada and maybe the world. A truly amazing story and honestly, I am so glad that the horse, Tale of Ekati, was the one that Mr. Fipke preferred to be featured in "A Brush With Greatness" because this was really much more fun to talk about.

There are two books you should enjoy during the quarantine: "Fire Into Ice" and "A Brush With Greatness"

Tale of Ekati now stands in Kentucky at Darby Dan Farm, included in our Thoroughbred Breeding section.


Jaywalk by Robert Clark, Artist
Jaywalk by Robert Clark, Artist

This was a little filly that was a favorite from the first time I found out her daddy was Cross Traffic. She's from his first foal crop. Cross Traffic was raced by Paul Bulmahn's Gold Mark Farm in Ocala. I first painted for Paul more than ten years ago and we've been friends ever since. Jaywalk was raced by Len Green of the Green Group and Cash Is King Stables.

Warning: Brace yourself for another long winded story.

In 2013 I was brought in by John Hendrickson to the paint the history of the Saratoga Race Course on the life-size horse for the 150th Saratoga Celebration. The horse depicts more than one hundred specific horses and individuals that played roles during the history of the Race Course going back to 1863. I happened to slip in a horse that was carrying the GoldMark silks onto one of the horses in the painting. GoldMark really didn't have enough of a history at Saratoga to really be on the horse, but let's be real here - friends get preferential treatment. GoldMark had never even won a Grade 1 race before.

During the Saratoga meet of 2013 I painted every day in the paddock. I never left the paddock to go watch a race from the grandstand, but when the Whitney was about to run that year, Paul grabbed me in the paddock and insisted that I came with him to watch Cross Traffic in the Whitney. So, I did. . . It was crazy to watch Cross Traffic edge away in the stretch to win the Whitney, beating a really strong field including Mucho Macho Man who would later win the Breeders' Cup Classic.

And just like - - that, those "friend’s" silks on the Celebration horse were the same silks on the winner of the most prestigious Grade 1 for older horses at Saratoga. On the Celebration horse, the exact location of the GoldMark silks is right next to the image of Marylou Whitney. It's as if the Celebration horse was painted using a crystal ball. Who could have guessed that Cross Traffic and GoldMark would win the Whitney earlier in the year?

When I saw this young Cross Traffic filly named Jaywalk, I think it's fair to say I was not just on the bandwagon, I was holding the reins driving the bandwagon! What a cutie. When you win a Breeders' Cup race, you are instantly anointed as racing royalty with your name written in the annuals of history.


Curlin by Robert Clark, Artist
Curlin by Robert Clark, Artist
Curlin by Robert Clark, Artist
Curlin by Robert Clark, Artist
Curlin by Robert Clark, Artist
Curlin by Robert Clark, Artist

I'm not sure how many times I have painted Curlin. It has been several times for charity, including the first time I painted him which was at the 2008 Eclipse Awards. That painting is pictured here in the Midnight Cry black and blue silks, winning the Breeders' Cup Classic in the quagmire called Monmouth Park. To this day, if I see a Curlin offspring running in the slop, I have to bet it!

The first time he caught my eye it was in the sunshine of Gulfstream Park. It was his debut in a Maiden Special Weight race early in the day's card. It was Fountain of Youth Saturday and the three-year-olds that caught the headlines going into the day would be racing in that stakes race, (including the likes of Scat Daddy, NoBiz Like ShowBiz, and Stormello). This hack handicapper has a few rules that are usually worth following, one of which is to never bet on a first-time starter who is racing against others that have a race or two under their belt. The percentages say it's not in the numbers, unless that first-time starter is really special. . . . s Spoiler alert: CURLIN WAS REALLY SPECIAL!!!

After he won so easily and by such a margin, owners and their agents came out of the woodwork to buy this horse, but the best they could do was get a piece. Three days after his first race, his owners went from one to four! They were Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet (Jess Jackson, George Bolton), and Padua (Satish Sanaan’s Padua Stables). They raced the horse through his 3-year-old campaign alternating his silks with each race. He won the Preakness in George Bolton's silks and circled back to the Midnight Cry silks for the Breeders' Cup. I'm amused that TVG still has a still-photo ad with a horse in green and gold silks, which I'm sure most people don't realize is Curlin in the Padua silks.

By his four-year-old season everything was in flux, Midnight Cry is a whole 'nother story that would take all day to write. Jess Jackson (best known as the owner of Kendall Jackson wines; *that's worth noting) consolidated the ownership of Curlin and he wore the now famous Stonestreet colors for the rest of his career including his win at Dubai in the richest race in the world, The Dubai World Cup.

Yes, those silks are famous now because of Curlin, because of Rachel Alexandra and many, many more. But here's a fun piece of information about the famous yellow and red silks at the Keeneland yearling sale, around about 2005, I was talking with Jess. At that point he was known for buying horses and building a stable, but he hadn't raced many of his own horses in his silks yet. As much of a race track fan as I am, I didn't know what his silks looked like. If you remember nothing else about this post, remember this: *when I asked Jess what were his colors, he smiled real big and answered, "Chardonnay and Burgundy". WOW! It's hard to call those silks yellow and red after you hear that.

Now a top sire, Curlin stands in Kentucky at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms for a stud fee of $175,000. Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms is included in our Thoroughbred Breeding section.


Chasing Yesterday by Robert Clark, Artist
Chasing Yesterday by Robert Clark, Artist

This little girl is a very special member of a very special family, kind of the first family of racing. That is if you consider American Pharoah, this generation’s king. We all know that American Pharoah broke the thirty-three year drought between Triple Crown winners. The first since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978.

This filly by Tapit is out of Littleprincessemma, making her a half-sister to American Pharoah. Littleprincessemma was scheduled to go through the Fasig Tipton November sale just a couple days after the 2014 Breeders’ Cup. American Pharoah was a 2-year old in 2014 and was already showing the signs of greatness. However, he was scratched only days before he was to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The night Littleprincessemma was going through the sale, the team from Summer Wind Farm led by Frank and Jane Lyon were there with their main priority to bring this mare home. I’ve known the Lyons for several years, so when I saw them at the sale they invited me to join their group. When the gavel went down and Littleprincessemma was the new property of Summer Wind, there was quite stir in the building.

2015 was the 3-year-old campaign for American Pharoah as he went on to make racing history, not just as the twelfth Triple Crown winner, but he also became the only horse to win the Triple Crown and win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. By the time American Pharoah had won the Kentucky Derby he had a full brother born at Summer Wind. The foal was named Irish Pharaoh by Jane Lyon (later sold to Coolmore who changed his name to St. Patrick’s Day). Later that year, just a week after seeing American Pharoah win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Frank Lyon passed away after several years of battling ill health.

This filly, Chasing Yesterday, was the first foal by Littleprincessemma after Frank has passed away. Many people think the name Chasing Yesterday was a reference to following in her big brother’s footsteps. That’s not where the name came from. As Frank fought each of his last days, the inevitable was nearing. Frank’s doctor in Arkansas who had become a close family friend over the years said, “The best we can hope for now, is that we are chasing yesterday.” It was a reference, that while Frank would never fully recover, they hoped each day would be as good as the day before.

The Lyon’s story is a love story, the story of a man who loved his wife and wanted to give her what she always wanted, a beautiful horse farm in Kentucky. Littleprincessemma was that final gift to her and the names of her foals have repeated Jane’s love and appreciation of Franks’ desire to fulfill her dreams: Chasing Yesterday and Lasting Legacy are both names to honor Frank. The most recent addition to Littleprincessemma’s progeny came on Easter of this year and is appropriately named Sunrise Service.

One last side note on Chasing Yesterday. She is the first Grade 1 winner raced by Summer Wind Farm. She is very special in so many ways.


Groupie Doll by Robert Clark, Artist
Groupie Doll by Robert Clark, Artist

This was another cute filly on that track that gathered a massive fan following. Sometimes it’s just a catching name, a pretty face, and sometimes it’s because they win a lot! In Groupie Doll's case it was all of the above. She raced the majority of her career for trainer / owner Buff Bradley’s family in their red, white, and blue silks. She was the star of their stable and you’d have to go back to their Brass Hat to find one that was even comparable to the fun and buzz Groupie Doll created on the track. The highlight of her career was winning back to back Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprints. In the process, she picked up back to back Eclipse Awards as the Champion female sprinter in 2012 and 2013.

The bitter-sweet part of having a horse this good is that it becomes too valuable a commodity not to sell, and selling a horse like Groupie Doll was emotional. Through the sales ring, Groupie Doll came out the property of Mandy Pope. In the world of horses, you hit the lottery if you join Mandy’s broodmare band. She has been accumulating some of the brightest female stars of the racetrack to build her high-powered broodmare band. In addition to Groupie Doll, Mandy has added the genetic talents of Horse of the Year, Havre de Grace, Kentucky Oaks Champion Plum Pretty, Breeders’ Cup distaff winner Unrivaled Belle, and the 2- year-old and 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award winner Songbird, to name a few.

The belief was that Groupie Doll had run her last race. She still had fuel in the tank, but Mandy’s tendency was to put her girls out to pasture and a second career built around lots of leisure. I guess there was a conversation with Buff and it was decided that Groupie Doll would run in Mandy’s silks before riding into the sunset at the farm. Her final race was at Gulfstream in Mandy’s pink and yellow silks and Groupie Doll continued the script of her movie star career winning the Hurricane Bertie Stakes. Hey, all the pressure wasn’t just on Groupie Doll – I was painting in the paddock at Gulfstream, working on this painting of her in the race that was about to happen! That’s nuts when you think about it!

When she won, I was relieved; maybe more relieved than any race I’d ever watched and I’m pretty sure I’ll never paint a race in advance ever again!!! Mandy was overjoyed. As I hugged Mandy, she said, “She (Groupie Doll) just gave me my first stakes win.” I guess holding off that ride into the sunset was the way our hero would do it in the movies.


Mares  & Foals by Robert Clark, Artist
Mares & Foals by Robert Clark, Artist

Mandy’s broodmares reside at Timber Town Stables in Lexington, KY. Mandy and I had talked for years about doing a special painting. It began with the idea of doing something for Havre de Grace, then Plum Pretty, and doing something BIG and with their foals. Then, Groupie Doll came along, so we waited for her to have her first foal. There were some problems with Groupie Doll’s first foal and was sent immediately to the vet clinic. Mandy saved it, but it didn’t get the time in the field with mama. So, we waited another year. This time the baby was perfect, and by the time I went to Timber Town to get the photos, Mandy’s band had grown so large over the initial conversation that we decided to feature six of Mandy’s mares in two different paintings. They were designed as a diptych to hang side by side.

Each canvas was 4 feet tall and 5 ½ feet long. To get the twelve horses together, the key would be getting the light identical in all the source photos, and none of the babies wanted to cooperate and it ended up taking eleven different photos to get the six mares and six foals into the two paintings. I walked around the field with the camera to my eye, while keeping the sun behind me at the same position. That’s when I noticed none of the foals were anywhere near their dams. Shelley the Broodmare manager laughed and said something to the effect that Groupie Doll is the babysitter. The other mares leave their foals with her and she’d watch all of them. Maybe it was not being able to raise her first foal, but I’ve been amused by the thought of Groupie Doll being the babysitter for mares like Gracie and Plum Pretty. In this mare and foal painting, that is Gracie on the left, Plum Pretty on the right, and our star Groupie Doll in the center.

A couple years later, when Ed Bowen and I were putting together the book, “A Brush With Greatness”, of course horses like Gracie, Plum Pretty, and Groupie Doll have to be included. Because I knew Mandy better than the other owners, I went to Mandy first to get quotes for the book. Without hesitation Mandy said, “I think Buff needs to give the quote for Groupie Doll. Actually, Rick (Porter) and John (Fort) should give the quotes on Gracie and Plum Pretty.” When I told Ed what Mandy did, Ed said, “That is one of the classiest moves ever.” Yeah, I think all these mares were lucky to find their way to Mandy’s barn at Timber Town.

About Robert Clark

Robert Clark, Artist

A lifetime of drawing and painting has established Robert Clark as an elite equestrian artist. His artwork is displayed in the homes and farms of prominent owners and successful trainers across the globe. Over the past two decades, Robert has enjoyed painting many of the world’s most famous horses. He has developed a following among art enthusiasts, racing fans, and horse lovers everywhere. Whether painting live at a black tie event or in his studio with his dog, Shiner, at his feet, Robert’s mastery as a painter and his passion for horse racing combine to create canvases that freeze a winning moment into a timeless masterpiece.

Good news! Bob can also paint horses of any discipline! For a special rate to paint a portrait of YOUR horse, email Robert Clark at and use the code Clark2020.

You can find Robert Clark in our section on Paintings under the heading for Kentucky.
This article is only one of many interesting stories in our section on Recreation & Lifestyle.

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