Dec 3, 2008


Did you happen to notice that there was no Peb cartoon on the cover of Daily Racing Form on October 25, Breeders’ Cup day? Evidently not many people were aware of its absence for the first time in the history of Breeders’ Cup.

The Form chose to cut ties with beloved artist Pierre Bellocq, citing financial reasons, late in the Saratoga meeting. According to Peb, two DRF employees traveled to his home in Princeton, NJ to deliver the news that he was through. The 82-year-old Frenchman was offered a year’s salary as severance after five decades as the preeminent sporting artist in the world. He also was asked, he said, to sign a promise that he would not “trash” The Form in public.

Not being the type of person to trash anybody, the octogenarian is currently painting a mural at Del Mar. He has in recent years done two Derby themed murals at Churchill Downs and another at Belmont Park

Peb’s whimsical humor brought to life the unique world of Thoroughbred racing. A racing fan started the day with a smile when he picked up The Form and saw Peb’s work on the cover.

His talent was not limited to horses. He was hired by Daily Racing Form owner Walter Annenberg to draw cartoons on the editorial page of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was once nominated for a Pulitzer prize. He also joined his son Remi, a cartoonist in his own right, in helping create an international circuit for amateur riders.

Peb’s art adorns the walls of the world’s top racetracks and numerous private collections, including one of Gallagher’s Steak House, just down W. 52nd from The Morning Telegraph. It depicts a mob of recognized celebrities partying in the famed eatery. You.won’t miss Josephine Baker.

Still, it’s a pity that Peb did not get the sendoff he deserved. His legion of fans would have filled Saratoga to say good-bye. A collector’s edition would have sold out thousands of Daily Racing Forms. T-shirts of the elfin Gallic humorist would be all the rage.

Peb has a few irons in the fire at the moment with various racing entities. He won’t need to stand in any baguette lines.

Dec 1, 2008


It will soon be the 19th anniversary of Sunny Blossom’s setting a new track record at Santa Anita in the Palos Verdes Handicap, six furlongs in 1.07.1. He flew the colors of Santa Barbara Stables, a band of racing enthusiasts rounded up by your humble scribe to try our luck with the big boys.

In the Los Angeles Times the next morning columnist Allan Malamud scoffed at that record as nothing more than a fluke on a super fast track. Basic handicapping skill said otherwise and I said so in a note to Allan. A decent claiming horse also won at six furlongs that day and needed 1.11 and change to do it. I pointed out to Allan that I had never seen such a spread over the same distance on the same day anywhere, let alone Santa Anita. Nobody else ran faster than usual that day, only Sunny Blossom.

To my delight, Allan wrote in his next column that I had persuaded him. Journalists are not readily found apologizing for the record. That no one has equaled that feat since is all the testimony needed that it was indeed an extraordinary performance.

How the landscape has changed since that golden after in 1989. Allan Malamud died much too young and the Los Angeles Times now barely acts as if racing exists.

I got to thinking the other day about track records of other horses in my care. Champion Speightstown could motor and equaled the six furlong standard of 1.08 at Saratoga.
Champion Chilukki sped a mile in 1.33.2 at Churchill Downs. Speightstown was bought at Keeneland for $2 million; Chilukki was a weanling when I bought her dam. Now that was luck!

Harmony Lodge was a great Gr. I performer who did not set any records but came close on occasion. This spring I found Broadway Hennessy and bought her because I thought she was the spitting image of Harmony Lodge, also by Hennessy. She broke the 5 ½ furlongs record at Golden Gate Fields first time out.

Sunny Blossom was found at Woodbine and there were plenty more speedy Canucks to be had at the right price. Slyly Gifted won the 11 furlongs Canadian Derby two weeks after taking the Longacres Derby at 1 3/16 miles. Both records still stand.. He was ridden by the ill-fated Ron Hansen whose body washed ashore in San Francisco Bay some years later in an unsolved murder case.

Bold Laddie was the first stallion project that I was involved in. The smallish son of Boldnesian broke down in a quest for the British Columbia Derby by the Jawl family of Vancouver Island. Bold Laddie’s progeny won over $10 million and he sired more than 30 stakes-winners, huge numbers for that part of the world’s limited opportunities.

Bold Laddie passed on stamina as well as speed. Lil Ol Gal set a world record for 3 ½ furlongs at two. I bought her for John Franks as a 4-year-old and she went on to win Woodbine stakes.

Laddie’s Prince was another versatile sort who set standards three times at two miles or longer.

Our latest speedster is Home For Harlan who broke the 6 ½ furlongs mark at Woodbine. He found the Toronto surface more congenial than his first few tries in California. He won again the other day in 1.08 and change.

After I bought him his trainer evidently was talking smack about my purchase, implying that I was either stupid or dishonest. It’s a good thing that the finish line speaks louder than jive,
He who laughs last, laughs best.