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Legendary Racing Cartoonist Honored at Saratoga Events this Summer
By Arthur Gonick
SARATOGA SPRINGS – He has a career spanning over 50-years developing what can only be described as a labor of love: Horse racing’s preeminent cartoonist, chronicling in caricature the leading lights of the sport of kings with verve, style and impish good humor.
Pierre Bellocq, known affectionately to racing fans as PEB, whose iconic cartoons were a staple of the Daily Racing Form, is continuing to embrace life well into his ninth decade. And he shows no signs of slowing down. This summer, he is returning to Saratoga Springs for the first time in a few years (“a place that I always feel happy,” he said) to receive richly deserved accolades at some of racing society’s leading galas and events. PEB was one of the honorees at Equine Advocates Gala this past Thursday, July 30, at which several of his collectable cartoons were among the auction items.
He also has been commissioned to paint a fiberglass horse with the likeness of current triple-crown winner American Pharoah, to be auctioned at the Sunday, August 9 gala (“The Foods of Anne Burrell”) to benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park (for information, visit www.trfinc.org). PEB is planning to attend this event as well.
It’s been a long, cheerful road for the man who once voyaged to the US from France in the 1950s. “I was sponsored by the then owner of Laurel Race Course in Baltimore, John D. Shapiro, who was looking for an illustrator for his track program,” PEB said. “Most people don’t know this, but I actually came over on a cargo plane with five horses! For me, it seemed luxurious being able to sleep in all that hay. And it gave me an opportunity to brush up on my English with the grooms.”
His patron, Shapiro, also connected PEB with work at a local advertising agency, and eventually, the Daily Racing Form, where he rapidly grew to be a 365-day institution – frequently his cartoons would be prominent on the front page of racing’s bible. “I mostly made my choice of subject with little direction, featuring the leading event of the day and focusing on the personality of trainer, jockey, horse as I saw them,” he said.
How did the subject feel about being caricatured? “Well, usually they were gratified. I recall one person saying: When I’ve been drawn by PEB I know I’ve made it!” He said. “Although, I’ve learned over time that it is wise to be extra-sensitive as to how I draw the ladies.”
While most of PEB’s cartoons would reflect the good-natured and humorous side of racing, he would also cover the controversial issues (such as doping or mistreatment of horses) when the situation called for it. Which is precisely why he is a worthy honoree at this year’s galas.
Also, some may not be aware that for many years he pulled double-duty: Skewering politicians and the great issues of the day three times a week as a political cartoonist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I preferred international issues over local – they were less likely to come looking for me!”
Even over the phone, you can feel the joie de vivre and warmth in his voice – the voice of a man who loves sharing his gift with others.
Regarding Saratoga, PEB first came visited as a guest of jockey Jean Cruguet and his wife. “So many memories… on my first outing, Saratoga reminded me of the atmosphere at Deauville” (a race course in in the Basse-Normandie region of France,) PEB said. “So beautiful, the morning workouts, breakfast at the track, the museums…”
“Saratoga. Going there, it’s always something I always look forward to,” he said.
Travers Week Celebrations Kick Off
SARATOGA SPRINGS — This year may be one of the most exciting Travers week yet with a number of events and celebrations leading up to the famed Mid-Summer Derby next Saturday, as well as the showdown of three of thoroughbred racings’ top contenders this year—Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Belmont top finisher Palace Malice and Haskell Invitational winner Verrazano—all scheduled to race in the million dollar Travers Stakes.
Behind the Lens
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The father-son duo of Bob and Adam Coglianese have been the eyes behind some of the all-time best horseracing photographs at the Saratoga Race Course and the rest of the New York Racing Association circuit for over 50 years.
A Look at Thoroughbred Racing Immortals
There’s a bit of a lull this time every meet. The momentum from the first few weekends has worn off, yet it’s before the big finale of Travers and then closing weekend. There’s no better time for Saratoga to turn its attention to racing’s immortals.
The Fourstardave Winner of a $15,000 Win Wager Announced
SARATOGA SPRINGS — If Adam McNeill of Saratoga Springs chooses the winning horse in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 10, he will get to take home the full on-track winnings from a $15,000 wager, not having spent a penny of his own cash.
An Afternoon with Funny Cide
GREENFIELD CENTER — Several lucky visitors got to spend an afternoon with the first New York Bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Funny Cide, at Old Friends at Cabin Creek on August 6.
What’s Happening at the Saratoga Race Track
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saturday, August 10: Fourstardave Handicap: The day’s feature race is the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on the inner turf. This year’s edition is expected to include 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan, winner of eight of his previous nine starts, and will be broadcast on NBC as part of the network’s “Summer at Saratoga” series.
Inside Look at Saratoga Race Course in ‘Spa All Access’ Video Series
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The New York Racing Association, Inc. recently introduced a video series offering fans exclusive content and a behind-the-scenes look at Saratoga Race Course during the track’s 150th anniversary season.
Gansevoort Man to Wager $15,000 of Someone Else's Money
SARATOGA SPRINGS — He may be a winner. Kevin Brockley of Gansevoort is the first person chosen in the Saratoga 150 contest where a total of five people will be chosen at random to bet $15,000 on the featured Stake race each week.
There’s Something About the Whitney
Depending on the weather, it is the one day of the Saratoga meet that threatens, and sometimes surpasses, Travers Day. You can look at handle, you can look at attendance, but the buzz around the Grade I $750,000 Whitney Invitational can hardly be measured. The Whitney kicks off August, the Travers sends it packing.