Saturday, 01 October 2022

Seabiscuit statue unveiled, dedicated at Ridgewood Ranch

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Bugler Pete Esterbrook of Santa Rosa performs a call to post during the dedication of a Seabiscuit Statue at Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, Calif. Saturday, June 23. Esterbrook is the only racetrack bugler in Northern California. Photos by Suzette Cook/seabiscuitheritage.org.

 

 

WILLITS – Former Vice President Walter Mondale and his wife Joan, celebrated throroughbred racehorse owner Harry Aleo, and descendants of the owner, trainer, and jockey of Seabiscuit on Saturday paid tribute to the legendary American racehorse as a classic, life-sized bronze sculpture of the equestrian giant was unveiled and formally dedicated at Ridgewood Ranch in Willits.


The private ceremony took place more than 55 years after a Seabiscuit statue had been removed from the ranch where the horse legend spent his final racing and retirement years, died, and was buried.


"Seabiscuit was a most unlikely champion – a down-on-his-luck horse whose looks didn't inspire confidence in anyone – except for the people who mattered most – his owner Charles Howard, his jockey Red Pollard, and his trainer Tom Smith," said Mrs. Mondale, official representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "They were an amazing team, this horse and these three men. They worked miracles and in the depths of the Depression that seemed to go on and on, they gave people something to feel good about."


Retired Marine Col. Michael Howard, great grandson of Charles Howard, read a statement from Laura Hillenbrand whose best-selling book rekindled national interest and led to an Academy Award-nominated film about the great horse and the remarkable team who owned, trained, and raced him.


"I can say with perfect certainty that nothing could have thrilled (Charles Howard) more than to see people gather here at his beloved ranch to dedicate a statue crafted to celebrate Seabiscuit and to carry the horse's legend forward to new generations," said Hillenbrand. "May the world never forget the magnificent Seabiscuit."


Besides Mrs. Mondale and Col. Howard, other speakers at Saturday's event were Aleo, owner of Lost in the Fog, the most popular San Francisco Bay Area horse since Seabiscuit; John Pollard Sr., nephew of Seabiscuit jockey Red Pollard; Anthea Hartig, Western Director, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Jani Buron, former ranch resident and author of "The Spirit of Seabiscuit"; and Bill Nichols, former ranch hand and author of "Seabiscuit-The Rest of the Story". Dashing Lil'Biscuit, a Seabiscuit descendant, made a brief appearance.


Representing the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation were the emcee, Jacqueline Cooper, owner and breeder of the American Legend Horse Farm which is raising Seabiscuit's descendants at Ridgewood, and Foundation President Tracy Livingston.


The foundation is a nonprofit group formed to protect and preserve the historic buildings and natural resources of the remaining 5,000 acres of the Howard Ranch. "The return of the statue marks the start of a new era at the ranch, one which ultimately will see the completion and execution of a full-blown restoration and preservation plan," commented Livingston.


Famed Western artist and sculptor Hughlette "Tex" Wheeler cast two statues from Seabiscuit in 1940-41 while the horseracing legend was still alive.


About a decade ago, the Howard family donated one of the sculptures to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. In February 1941, Seabiscuit himself helped unveil the second statue at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California where it remains in the garden paddock area.


Custom design statue makers, Icon Bronze of Anchorage, Alaska and its affiliate, Atlas Bronze Casting of Salt Lake City, crafted the replica unveiled today from a new rubber and fiberglass mold of the original in Saratoga Springs. V. Fontana, a family-owned fine granite and marble products manufacturer near San Francisco that made the original five-ton dark diamond gray granite pedestal, used the same polishing equipment to produce the new base. The inscription is the same: "Biscuit's courage, honesty, and physical prowess definitely place him among the thoroughbred immortals of turf history. He had intelligence and understanding almost spiritual in quality."


Chris and Anita Lowe of Bishopstone, Wiltshire U.K., foundation benefactors and collectors of Seabiscuit memorabilia, generously provided funding for the monument. The Lowes were made honorary citizens and given a key to the city of Willits by Mayor Tami Jorgensen. "There have been countless famous racehorses throughout the ages from all over the world," said Chris Lowe. "But few if any have captured the imagination and inspired an entire nation as Seabiscuit."


Nestled in the oak and redwood-studded ranchlands and mountains of northern California, Ridgewood Ranch was where Seabiscuit was nursed back to health after a serious injury. Seabiscuit's recuperation set the stage for an electrifying blaze-of-glory career finish at Santa Anita Park that captivated Depression-era America.


Still a working ranch, Ridgewood has been designated one of America's most threatened historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The current owner, Christ's Church of the Golden Rule, has endeavored to be a model steward of the ranch by keeping developers at bay and by permanently protecting the historic structures that constitute Seabiscuit's legacy. The church has worked toward restoring several historic buildings and has joined the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, the National Trust, and others to develop an overall preservation and resource management plan and identify necessary funding sources for the effort.


For more information, contact the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, Ridgewood Ranch, 16200 Highway 101, Willits, CA 95460, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The foundation Web site address is www.seabiscuitheritage.org.


For a full gallery of picture from the Seabiscuit statue unveiling, go to http://lakeconews.com/component/option,com_wrapper/Itemid,37/.

 

 

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