The next time a horse is awarded the Triple Crown trophy will be the first time for a new design, as New York Racing Association president Chris Kay has commissioned a redesigned piece to replace the one awarded to the previous Triple Crown winners.
Designed and created by Cartier, the trophy awarded to American Pharoah 's connections last year is a three-sided vase, representing the three races of the Triple Crown. The trophy initially was presented retroactively to the first eight Triple Crown winners, then to the three winners of the 1970s, and last year to American Pharoah.
Kay wanted to add something to the current design.
"It's 7 1/2 inches and relatively minimalistic," said Kay of the current trophy. "For something as grand as the Triple Crown—something that is so rare and hard to achieve—we should have something equally spectacular. That was my motivation."
Designed by sculptor Roberto Santo, who was selected by Kay, the new trophy will stand 36 inches high. Kay previously worked with the artist on commissions for Toys R Us and Universal Theme Parks, both of which Kay worked with before joining NYRA.
Santo was commissioned in 2003 by the United States Olympic Committee to create "Flight of Victory," and his work has appeared in galleries in New York, Miami, London, Italy, and the Netherlands.
"I received a call from Chris Kay asking if I'd be interested in doing something for the Triple Crown," Santo said. "I was very excited about that, and this is a pretty spectacular opportunity for me. It's a real honor to work on this."
Though Santo had never worked with horses artistically before, he grew up surrounded by representations of them. His father, commercial artist Bob Peak, created advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes, famous for their Marlboro man on horseback, and his father also created ads for Belmont Park.
"It's a great feeling, like I'm walking in my father's footsteps," said Santo, who divides his time among Italy, northern California, and Florida.
Santos said he did "enormous amounts" of research to prepare for creating the trophy, poring over photographs of great racehorses, making sure he understood what distinguished a Thoroughbred from other breeds. He determined early on that he didn't want to use a particular horse as a model for the trophy, to ensure a timeless element, not bound to one particular animal or event.
The new trophy is currently being created by silversmith Ubaldo Vitali, a 2011 MacArthur fellow whose work has been featured at the Newark Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Said Darren Rogers, senior director of communications and media services at Churchill Downs, "We're equal partners and we're excited to see this new trophy. We're hopeful that as was the case in years past, the trophy will be on public display in the Kentucky Derby Museum where hundreds of thousands of visitors can see it annually."
Kay said the efforts to design a new trophy included the other racetracks that host Triple Crown races, but a Maryland Jockey Club spokesperson said the officials who host the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course played no role in designing or creating it.
The delivery date for the new trophy has not been established, and NYRA did not provide any information on its cost.
"We're looking forward to the day when we can show it off," Kay said. "We have an opportunity here to have a really magnificent trophy that can bring more attention from both horseplayers and the casual fan about the Triple Crown."