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Saratoga 150 horse a popular piece of art

Saratoga 150 horse a popular piece of art

The horse photographed with the most tourists this summer at Saratoga Race Course has never won a ra

The horse photographed with the most tourists this summer at Saratoga Race Course has never won a race.

In fact, it has never even run a race, put on a saddle or taken a step.

That's because the horse that fans can't get enough of this summer at the track is actually a piece of art stationed right inside the Nelson Avenue gate. Only a few minutes will pass during a nice day at the track before someone is drawn over to the fiberglass horse painted with images representing the evolution of racing in Saratoga during the past 150 years.

Equine artist Robert Clark has never had this experience with his work before, but he has also never painted a replica of a thoroughbred before. The horse highlights how the course, people and horses have changed over the years in Saratoga Springs, with depictions of the city's racing scene in 1863, 1913, 1963 and 2013 broken up into four quadrants. The entire body is painted, with eras separated by the red and yellow oval Saratoga 150 emblem.

When he finished the project, Clark said he didn't know how the work would be received.

Since learning that the horse is rarely left alone, he said it feels like having a child that did something great and now other kids want to be friends with the child. "I knew I liked my kid, I just didn't know other kids liked my kid," he said. "I think it's pretty cool."

The horse is standing in a flower bed, which is surrounded by a circular brick walkway and more flowers.

Clark added that it was unique for him to keep tabs on his work, like the way he can with the Saratoga 150 horse. While he has spent more than 30 years painting horses, with the past 10 years exclusively dealing with thoroughbreds, most of his work is out of his sight once someone else takes ownership.

The horse was commissioned by John Hendrickson as part of the Saratoga 150 celebration, which commemorates the start of horse racing in the city in 1863. He and wife Marylou Whitney are honorary co-chairs of the Saratoga 150 committee and have been the guiding light for some of this summer's biggest events.

Regarding the popularity of the horse, Hendrickson said, "I am so happy people are enjoying the horse. Bob Clark did an exceptional job depicting the history of the racecourse."

It took about four months to paint the horse, which was then stabled in Whitney's pool house before it was brought to its current home at the track. After this summer the horse will settle at its permanent home across the street from the track at the National Museum of Racing.

"It was an honor to have John and the folks up here ask me to do this," Clark said.

He described the process as one that was special but arduous. He said that thinking about mounting a similar project again, so soon after completing this one, was like asking a runner if they were going to do another marathon a few seconds after they just finished a marathon.

The name of the horse, which was selected in conjunction with fan submissions and the Saratoga 150 committee, will be unveiled on Aug. 9.

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