Clay model replica of the Barbaro statue which will be created by Alexa King.

Clay model replica of the Barbaro statue which will be created by Alexa King.

Reed Palmer

King Selected to Create Barbaro Statue

Alexa King has been selected to create a memorial statue of Barbaro at Churchill.

Nearly two years after Barbaro took the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and a year and a half following his death, the colt’s memory continued to prevail as dozens of fans and media gathered for a special announcement regarding a memorial statue of him at Churchill Downs.

Surrounded by images of their deceased colt projected on the walls of the Kentucky Derby Museum, Roy and Gretchen Jackson May 1 announced they have selected equine sculptor Alexa King to create a permanent memorial honoring the 2006 Derby victor.

King will sculpt a statue of Barbaro, which will become the focal point of his official burial site in front of Gate 1 at Churchill Downs. A one-third-scale model clay replica of the statue was unveiled at the museum, which features Barbaro and jockey Edgar Prado in mid-flight between strides nearing the finish line in the 2006 Run for the Roses.

A larger-than-life statue will be attached to a horizontal bronze rail that will support the 1,500-pound artwork. It is the first time a statue of this size and scope has been presented in this particular manner. The sculpture is expected to be installed in front of Gate 1 along with Barbaro’s ashes interned in the bronze before next year’s Derby. 

According to Leonard Lusky, project manager for the Jacksons, nearly 100 artists initially inquired about the project. The selection process lasted four months, and the search was narrowed to 10, who were asked to submit a one-third-scale model to the Jacksons.

“When I saw Alexa’s statue, it made my heart pound,” said Gretchen Jackson, who campaigned Barbaro with her husband, Roy. “The statue was exactly how I pictured it looking in my mind.” Gretchen Jackson said King’s statue was the first one she viewed among the 10 finalists and thought her work best depicted the colt with all four feet off the ground.

“Barbaro was a beautiful animal, and I wanted to create a monument that looked exactly like him,” said King. “This is a monument for the people that had a personal relationship with this animal, and also for those that followed his career. I’m impressed with how much Roy and Gretchen loved Barbaro and wanted to share him with the world.”

King will create the statue in a studio with 14-feet ceilings in her hometown of Madison, Wisc., with 500 to 700 pounds of wax clay. After carving the details of the statue with wooden and steel tools, a mold of each piece will be made and transported to Colorado to create an art casting and put on a bronze additive.

King, a native of Muncie, Ind., studied oil painting and portraiture under noted painter William Ashby. One of her most recent projects includes a half-life-sized statue of a well-known steeplechase horse for the Virginia Gold Cup.

King, who first discovered her love of sculpture in 1980, has raised Hackney and Saddlebred horses throughout her life, and still keeps a few in Midway and Paris, Ky.

During the press conference, it was also announced that the Kentucky Derby Museum would host a student exhibition of sculpture called “Barbaro: Expressions of Love” next fall. The works of art displayed in the exhibit will celebrate Barbaro’s courage in the face of a long struggle, which included his leg injury in the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and eventually succumbing to a battle with laminitis.

Lynn Ashton, executive director of the Kentucky Derby Museum, said all the sculptures would eventually be auctioned to the public, with proceeds going to a Barbaro Charity.

“To us, the horse is a hero, and there is no better example than Barbaro,” said Ashton.

The Museum is accepting submissions for the exhibition beginning immediately, and continuing through March 15, 2009. Visit for details on how to submit. All pieces meeting the requirements will be displayed within the museum.