More than 200 racing trophies of the late Ethel D. Jacobs, North America's leading owner for three years, and her husband, Hirsch Jacobs, a Hall of Fame trainer, are being auctioned at Christie's in New York Jan. 17, 2008.
Among the items is the ornate silver trophy won by two-time champion Personality in the 1970 Preakness Stakes. It has an estimated worth of $20,000-$30,000.
The trophies were inherited by siblings John Jacobs, Thomas Jacobs, and Patrice Wolfson, who are all in their late 60s to early 70s.
"It's a huge collection, and my brother, sister, and I had decided it was time to do something for estate planning and purposes, and we decided there was no better time than now," said John Jacobs, who trained classic winners Personality and High Echelon for his mother, and was later a bloodstock agent.
John Jacobs, who started out as a trainer's assistant for Hirsch Jacobs in 1957, took over his father's string of horses after his death in February 1970, just prior to Personality's Preakness feat. Among some of Hirsch Jacobs' trophies that will not be sold at the Christie's auction are trainer of the year awards, turf writer awards, and other personal awards, which will be kept by the family. Several of John Jacobs' training trophies, including those won in the Preakness and Belmont , will be passed down to his two children.
Wolfson, who with her husband, Louis, bred and campaigned two-time Horse of the Year and 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed in the name of their Harbor View Farm in Florida, said all the awards won by that racing stable will also remain in the family instead of being auctioned.
Jacobs named some of the trophies won by 1945 champion handicap horse Stymie as the most elaborate and beautiful of the group that will be auctioned by Christie's. "(Stymie's) Gallant Fox trophies are solid gold, and the International Gold Cup where he beat Assault is also a magnificent gold cup," he said.
Stymie, who was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1975, was claimed by Hirsch Jacobs for just $1,500 in his third career start. Often called one of the greatest claims in history, the son of Equestrian retired with earnings of more than $900,000.
"The Preakness trophy is also a work of art in itself," Jacobs said. "That's the thing with a lot of these trophies--the art value--anyone who loves pieces of artwork, the workmanship is so magnificent. My mother used to have some of those trophies in the dining room and living room."
He said several of the items on the auction list are considered rare antiques and date back to the 1700s, and more than 20 of the trophies are made of solid gold.
Examining the inventory of their parents' trophies have brought back many happy memories for the Jacobs siblings.
"Of course, the Preakness and Belmont are in a class by themselves," Jacobs said when asked about his favorite moments in racing. "You go through that and it's just incredible. It's a life experience…anybody who has won any of those Triple Crown races--it does something to you that you will never forget."
"One of the interesting things about this collection is that in this day in age, we don't have a trainer who had a collection that's anything like this," Wolfson said. "I think it's a beautiful tribute to my dad--as an owner, trainer, and breeder. Instead of being sad that this has to happen, I think the memories it's going to bring about just brings (the trophies) to life."