Preakness jockeys race to immortality in clay

May 14, 1993|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Staff Writer

In Jean Goldsmith's Ellicott City studio the Preakness jockeys are even smaller than usual -- only 9 inches tall.

Mrs. Goldsmith is commissioned by Pimlico Race Course each year to make small statues of jockeys, bearing the colors and designs of the stables of their mounts.

The statues are given to the horse owners as commemorative pieces at the annual Alibi breakfast held the Friday morning before the race.

The idea for making the jockeys came up in 1978.

"I had gotten into working with clay, and I made a statue of a little jockey," Mrs. Goldsmith said while carefully painting another statue. "My husband and I came up with the idea, and we pitched it to Chick Lang, the track's old general manager. He said, 'This is a great idea.' "

Mrs. Goldsmith begins work in March when the statues are poured. After drying for a few days, the figures are inspected to make sure they are usable.

The figures and their bases are cleaned and fired in a kiln for 12 hours. After cooling, the bases and the pants and boots of each jockey are painted by Mrs. Goldsmith and her youngest daughter, Robin Evans. The white pants and black boots are standard.

When the statue is glued to the base, the trophy stands almost a foot tall. The hard work is next.

"It all happens the last week," Mrs. Goldsmith said of the painting of the silks that represent the different stables. Each stable has a design and colors all its own.

As the horses come in to town for the race, the jockeys' silks, or jackets, are delivered to Mrs. Goldsmith's studio, where she uses them as models. She painstakingly matches the colors and designs.

This year the colors and patterns include: a salmon pink jacket with black diamonds stretching across the chest and back, a gray jacket with gold sleeves and fancy loop-designed gold button holes, and a gold jacket with two white stripes circling the sleeves and a diagonal white sash stripe across the chest.

Each statue represents a jockey riding in tomorrow's Preakness.

"You stay up a lot all night," Mrs. Goldsmith said. "They might deliver the silks on Sunday and want the trophies on Thursday. That's not a lot of time. We try to be very accurate and very on time."

This year Mrs. Goldsmith was called with the 12th entry yesterday afternoon. The design was difficult -- alternating bright pink and hunter green diamonds all over both sleeves and a large diamond in both the front and back of the jacket.

"We've been working on it all day," Mrs. Goldsmith said. She finished five minutes before her 5:30 deadline.

"It's really fun and challenging to look at the different designs and try to match them on a much smaller scale," Mrs. Evans said.

One design from past years included a Scottish plaid strip diagonally across the chest of the statue. The strip was less than 1 inch wide.

Mrs. Evans pointed out another design for actor Jack Klugman's stable. His silk was light blue with two yellow stripes circling the arms. On the back was a drawing of a Mexican man in a red shirt with his arms crossed and his black sombrero pulled over his face. His legs, clad in brown trousers, were spread apart as he sat on a small island. In the background a sailboat passed by.

This intricate design had to be reduced to the size of a postage stamp.

A mostly gold-diamond design last year for entertainer Hammer's stable was especially difficult to reproduce.

"If the average statue takes four hours to paint, that one must have taken eight," Mrs. Evans said.

Mrs. Goldsmith's work is featured in the Racing Museum of History in Kentucky. The museum holds a special collection of the jockeys representing the 11 Triple Crown winners, beginning with Sir Barton in 1919 to the latest, Affirmed, in 1978.

When the statues are finished and sprayed with an acrylic coat to add gloss, they are sent to Pimlico. A small plaque with the name of the horse, the year and other information is then placed on the base of the statue.

Mrs. Goldsmith writes the name of her company, Twice Toled, and phone number on the bottom of each statue.

She will also make statues to order for the owners and other fans for $140 plus shipping.

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