DEL MAR — Thanks to the generosity of Del Mar attorney Bing Bush Jr., the city will have a permanent keepsake from the first running of the Breeders’ Cup at the Del Mar Race Track in the form of a life-sized sculpture of the horse that sits atop the winner’s trophy.
The donation will come from the Art of the Horse program, created “to generate regionwide enthusiasm for the Breeders’ Cup,” Kristen Crane, the assistant city manager, said at the March 20 council meeting before members agreed to accept the gift.
The Breeders’ Cup trophy is an authentic bronze reproduction of the original Torrie horse created in Florence by Giovanni da Bologna in the late 1580s.
Fiberglass Torrie horses, standing 7 feet high at the head and 7 feet long, are being decorated by artists and will be displayed throughout the county beginning in July.
The cost to sponsor a horse is $7,500. At that level, the piece will be auctioned off during a dinner that will be held as part of a Breeders’ Cup festival, a weeklong celebration leading up to the Nov. 3-4 event.
Proceeds from the auction will benefit community events surrounding the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and local charities.
For $15,000 sponsors can pull their sculpture from the auction and donate it, which is what Bush opted to do for the city for several reasons.
“I grew up in the horse industry,” he said. “And I’m very excited about having the Breeders’ Cup here. We need art and for Del Mar this will be a great asset for the city.”
As a member of the host committee for the Breeders’ Cup, considered the Super Bowl of horseracing, Bush said he heard a Del Mar resident and L’Auberge Del Mar might sponsor horses that would be auctioned off.
He also learned areas such as Rancho Santa Fe, La Jolla and adjacent Solana Beach, where he lives, were discussing the possibility of buying sculptures and permanently locating them in those cities.
“I wanted Del Mar to get involved but the city and the (Del Mar Village Association) didn’t have the money,” he said.
Sponsors select an artist from submitted design portfolios. Bush said he liked a piece by Cheryl Pelly from Thousand Oaks, Calif., just north of Los Angeles.
Of her three possible designs, Bush selected “Gold Coast,” which features real silver and 24-karat gold composite leaf that, according to Pelly, represents the shimmering, golden-hued California coast at sunrise and sunset, with the silvery coolness of the ocean in silver and the warmth of the sun in gold.”
“The opposing sides of the horses reflect opposites of each other with gold over silver, then silver over gold, both in a horizontal direction, like the beautiful coastline,” she added.
As an artist and an active equestrian in dressage, Pelly said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity “to design for such a grand occasion.”
“It is rare to see opportunities that merge the two disciplines,” she said. “The Breeders’ Cup is a very prestigious race and the energy that surrounds it is contagious.”
“This one I thought was really special,” Bush said. “It’s something that just has a little bit of a different feel to it.”
He said council members could weigh in on the final design, but Dave Druker cautioned against that.
“This is an excellent project,” he said. “The only thing I would suggest is that we not have any control over how the artist paints it. We, as a City Council, should not determine what art is.
“As long as it’s within public reason then I think we should support it,” he added. “The concept is for us not to opine on that. Let the artist determine what he/she believes is best for the city.”
“I think what you’re hearing is, make it really cool,” Mayor Terry Sinnott said.
Although council members unanimously agreed to accept the donation, they directed staff to ensure the city would have complete control over the piece in the event that it needed repairs or had to be stored rather than displayed.
City Manager Scott Huth said their concerns would be reflected in the agreement.
“We don’t want to have to follow a bunch of rules from an artist on how it needs to be used,” he said. “We have to have complete control over it.”
Bush said people can contribute to the cost but he is happy to fund the project if no one steps up. However, he said he has had some interest from a few residents.
While a permanent location has yet to be decided, Seagrove Park was suggested as a possible site.
“I’m very enthusiastic about this,” Councilwoman Sherryl Parks said.
“I think it would be a very positive thing for us as part of our efforts for the Breeders’ Cup,” Sinnott added.