Roy and Gretchen Jackson, the owners of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, today announced that they have selected renowned equine sculptor Alexa King to portray Barbaro in bronze. The statue will become the focal point of Barbaro's official memorial and burial site at Churchill Downs. The Jacksons introduced King and unveiled a clay model of the bronze statue this afternoon during a news conference at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
King’s design features Barbaro and jockey Edgar Prado in mid-flight between strides nearing the finish line in the 2006 “Run for the Roses.” The larger-than-life-sized statue will be attached to a horizontal bronze rail that will support the 1500-pound artwork, creating the impression that Barbaro and his rider are suspended in air. It is the first time that an equine statue of this size and scope has been presented in this manner, with all four of the horse’s feet off the ground.
“Roy and I want to portray Barbaro as we remember him best - a beautiful racehorse and an athlete,” said Gretchen Jackson. “Part of our direction to the artists who submitted designs for consideration was to depict Barbaro’s unique racing action. We envisioned him in motion as he began to distance himself from the field at the close of the Kentucky Derby.”
“Nearly 100 artists initially inquired about the project,” said Leonard Lusky, project manager for the Jacksons. “The selection process lasted four months, and the search was narrowed to only 10 who were then asked to submit a one-third-scale model, featuring the Jacksons’ requirement that all four feet be off the ground – quite an engineering feat given the potential size and weight of the finished sculpture.”
Roy Jackson continued, "It was a difficult decision. Each of the artists submitted such beautiful work. The models represented an amazing array of talent, but it was Alexa’s interpretation of Barbaro that immediately stood out and evoked the memories and emotion that we hoped to capture in bronze.”
“It is an honor to have been chosen to create such a special work of art that I know will have great meaning, not only for the Jacksons, but for fans of Barbaro and the Kentucky Derby around the world,” said King. “This commission is one of the most challenging and fulfilling that I have ever undertaken, and I look forward to capturing the moment that Barbaro became part of Kentucky Derby history and won the hearts of racing fans everywhere.”
King has distinguished herself as an equine sculptor winning praise and recognition around the world for capturing the essence and dynamics of her equine subject in three-dimensional bronze artworks. A sculptor with 26 years of experience, King is known for her ability to convey a sense of depth and emotion in the horses she recreates as living forms in motion. King’s interest in art began as a child with her mother serving as her first tutor. King studied oil painting and portraiture under the noted portrait painter, William Ashby, and credits her early experience as a painter for her ability to understand how color and light play into the patterns she casts into her sculptural forms.
King’s sculpture of Barbaro will be placed outside Churchill Downs’ Gate 1 along with Barbaro’s ashes, which will be interred beneath the bronze, sometime next year. As part of the media briefing, the Jacksons, King and officials from Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum also unveiled a bronze marker, featuring Barbaro’s likeness, which will mark the spot where the memorial will be constructed in a garden area outside Gate 1. The garden area is currently home to a large magnolia tree and other plantings that will be relocated to another part of the racetrack grounds prior to the memorial’s installation.
“The Churchill Downs team is delighted with Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s choice of artists, and we look forward to working with Alexa King on transforming her vision from a clay model into a lasting tribute to Barbaro’s indomitable spirit and his greatest triumph under our Twin Spires,” said Churchill Downs President Steve Sexton. “We believe Barbaro’s memorial will become a gathering place for horse lovers of all ages, and Churchill Downs is proud to serve as Barbaro’s final resting place.”
Barbaro’s heroic struggle created a swell of national attention and support, especially in the hearts of children. To honor this connection to children around the world, the Kentucky Derby Museum will host a student exhibition of sculpture called Barbaro: Expressions of Love. These works of art should celebrate Barbaro’s courage in the face of a long struggle.
“Barbaro brought the passion for racing beyond the industry, igniting emotion in children and inspiring those who had never seen a race,” said Lynn Ashton, executive director of the Kentucky Derby Museum. “A large part of the Museum’s mission is education, and Barbaro’s story spread knowledge about racing and Thoroughbreds worldwide in a way that we could never have achieved through other means. We hope to honor this legendary horse with the exhibit and student sculptures.”
The Kentucky Derby Museum is accepting submissions for the exhibition beginning immediately, and continuing through March 15, 2009. Visit www.derbymuseum.org for details on how to submit. All pieces meeting the requirements will be displayed within the Museum.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2008. The track’s 2008 Spring Meet is set for April 26 through July 6. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.
The Kentucky Derby Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding public awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the evolution and meaning of the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby Museum is located at Gate 1 of Churchill Downs.