An undisputed fact among thoroughbred racing enthusiasts is that the two greatest horses of the 20th century were Man O' War and Secretariat. In 1991, the Kentucky Horse Park invited Edwin Bogucki to participate in a show of art and memorabilia to honor the famous horses, the artist took advantage of the opportunity and immortalized both horses in bronze.
The problem of researching two horses separated by more than fifty years, was resolved by the use of several different methods. For Man O' War, Bogucki began with a photo which he himself had cut from a newspaper at the tender young age of five. Even then, the budding young artist had a fascination with horses and could appreciate the value of that particular scrap of paper. A generous donation of several archival quality photos from painter Helen Hayse rounded out the conformation material for the horse, while historical books helped to capture the image of a young Clarence Kummer who rode the famous horse into history no more than 7 years before his own life was lost to pneumonia.
While Man O' War did not enjoy the extensive film coverage that Secretariat did, the artist was able to obtain several minutes of rare footage from the library at Arlington International Racecourse that showed the great horse running races at the peak of his career.
The research material for Secretariat, while far more abundant, proved to be almost overwhelming. Coincidentally, the artist had visited Claiborne Farm during the summer of 1989 to see Secretariat in person. Even as a senior stallion, the enormous red horse radiated vitality and spirit. Photographs and videotapes were done and later used in conjunction with older photos to capture the horse in prime racing condition. Sadly, Secretariat passed on only three months later, making the information gathered even more crucial.
Bogucki traveled to Saratoga Springs, NY during the summer 1990 racing season to meet with Secretariat's jockey, Ron Turcotte, who was being inducted into the racing hall of fame. Turcotte was also photographed, videotaped and measured to insure perfect accuracy in the 1/3rd life size bronze. During their meeting Bogucki and Turcotte also discussed Secretariat and his typical behavior while he was racing. Of particular interest to the artist was the day of the Derby win, the setting he had chosen for the bronze portrait.
While studying the hundreds of photos that were part of his personal research library, Bogucki saw one that he found particularly moving. It was a picture of a young man, sitting upon a low wall at Claiborne farm, waiting for the truck that would return him, alone, to his stable. He appeared to have been crying. The young man was Eddie Sweat, Secretariat's groom, come to Claiborne to deliver his horse into retirement at stud. The heartbreak on his face was unmistakable. Bogucki realized that he could not do a portrait of Secretariat without including this man who had been closer to him and loved him more than anyone else.
Early in 1991, between morning and evening feedings at the training stable where he still groomed and cared for the horses placed in his care, Eddie Sweat was flown into Milwaukee from New York to view the nearly completed clay model. Sweat was delighted to see himself included in the piece and was able to offer more insight into Secretariat's unique personality and conformation. Both Turcotte and Sweat had told the artist of how the horse had come off the track at Churchill downs after the derby and lunged against their restraints repeatedly almost dragging Eddie Sweat all the way to the winner's circle. The scene, as it was depicted in the sculpture, was approved in person by Sweat.
In the spring of 1991 "Secretariat" and "Man O' War" were unveiled at the Kentucky Horse Park during the commemorative show. In them, Bogucki has not only immortalized the horses but also the people who helped those horses achieve their fullest potential. Frozen forever in time, they capture a touch, a look of anticipation, a smile of pride, tension, exhilaration, the true spirit of thoroughbred racing.
Shown are the Secretariat and Man O' War sculptures in their public debut during the Horsepark show. The two pieces flanked a large glass case holding memorabilia devoted to the famous horses.
It was this vitality and spirit that caught the attention of Penny Chenery. She eventually contacted Edwin Bogucki about the possibility of enlarging the 1/3 rd. life-size piece from the Horsepark show. She had been moved by the work and wanted to see it life-size. A prestigious committee was formed and the fundraising effort was spearheaded by the Sotheby’s auction of Penny’s personal collection of Secretariat memorabilia. From there, private donations have flooded in from admirers and fans alike, wishing to be a part of the historical event.
Copyright © 2003 Bogucki Studios and Katherine Bogucki All rights reserved.