“Stevie” Cauthen was only 18 years old when he jockeyed Affirmed to a 1978 Triple Crown win. The year before, Cauthen had become the first jockey - at the age of seventeen - to win over $6 million in a year. He was a phenom. 

The dueling front-runners in the 1978 Triple Crown contention - Affirmed and Alydar - will be forever linked in horse racing history. Affirmed won each of the Triple Crown races, yes. But Alydar, with Jorge Velasquez as guide, was only a couple of hoofbeats behind in all three.

Robert loved shooting Cauthen. The narrative of his youth captured Robert’s imagination. And then the excitement of the possibility - and achievement - of back-to-back Triple Crowns. Robert was all over this stuff. 

After riding for a few years in the United States, Cauthen went on to race in Europe. (He had begun having trouble meeting his weight limits in the US; Europe’s limits were more flexible.) Cauthen is the only jockey to have won both the Kentucky and Epsom Derbies.

Once again … the linked images above are from RRLT’s current licensing partner’s site, Getty Images. Enjoy!

Seattle Slew

If you haven’t watched the movie Secretariat recently, it’s definitely worth a view this week. True, it’s “not a documentary, it’s a Disney Movie,” as many of the reviews noted in 2010. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty great Disney movie. And it gives a wonderful sense of the power - even the genius - of some of these horses. Not to mention the crap shoot involved in raising and running a “winning” horse. Beyond that, we are reminded of the very fact of the rarity of a Triple Crown winner - a three year old thoroughbred, with not a lot of races under its saddle.

Prior to Secretariat, some had started to question whether another Triple Crown win was even possible for any one horse, given the new worlds of horse breeding and training. Indeed, a horse hadn’t won all three races (Derby, Preakness, Belmont) since Citation in 1948.  But Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown only four years after Secretariat’s accomplishment. 

Slew bested Secretariat by winning with an undefeated career. (Secretariat had had some spectacular losses - as dramatized in the movie - leading up to the Kentucky Derby. That said, Secretariat retains the speed record - indeed the world record for that length of hard track - for the Belmont stakes. Secretariat won his Belmont by 31 lengths.)

A big part of the Slew story lies in the humble aspect of his origins. He had been purchased for only $17.5K. And he looked funny. (His right front foot turned out; he swayed to the right when he ran.) He was owned by two couples, not some huge syndicate. They bought him in 1975 when a vet pointed them in the direction of a huge horse with a small tail.

The jockey Jean Cruguet empowered  Slew’s victories. The horse was often jittery at the gate. At the Derby, “[w]hen the gate shot up, a startled Slew lunged, stumbled and jerked his head sideways, cutting his mouth. It bled the entire race. The 13 other starters took off ahead of him.” But Cruguet steadied him, guided him strategically through the crowd, and let him run.

I only accompanied Robert to the track a couple of times. When we were living in New York City, we would go out to Belmont for him to get some shots. As I recall, they weren’t “big” races. Nevertheless, standing with him  right at the edge of the track (his reputation got him some pretty great shot-spots), the sense of the power of the horses in full run, of their massive size and strength and speed, astonished me. It’s something you don’t get from seeing it on TV/film. 

The photo links above are to Getty Images, RRLT’s current image licensing site. (They have a whole array of options for purchasing images through them, if you’re interested.) But I also attach a Robert pic of Slew from their site. As well as a pic of a lovely, huge (40” long) photo Robert himself framed for one of his exhibits. We have it hanging in the Gallery. It so well captures the otherworldly magic of a horse in full, competitive stride.


The Art of Race Riding

This weekend they run the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans! (My grandmother’s favorite flower.) In the discombobulated universe of 2020, this Triple Crown race (usually the middle one) ends up running last. The usual last one (Belmont) ran first - with a shortened track. And the usual first one (the Kentucky Derby) landed somehow in the middle. !?!?!

In the days leading up to Saturday’s run, I propose a reflection back to a steadier horse-racing time to calm our nerves. I’ll be posting daily images and stories from Robert’s collection to help us remember.

On June 17, 1957, Sports Illustrated came out with an issue with Robert’s portrait of Eddie Arcaro  on the cover. Titled  “The Art of Race Riding,” it was the first of five parts. It cost a quarter. In the series, Arcaro - to this day, the only jockey to have won two Triple Crowns - describes his art. And Robert illustrates the details. The series showcased Robert’s brilliance in capturing in a drawing the intensity of a horse’s strength and movement in a race.

Later that year, Robert copyrighted a 31-page limited edition portfolio of these drawings, along with Arcaro’s text. Printed by the Wright Lithographing Company of New York on high quality 12” x 16 1/2” stock, it’s an astonishing relic. Robert had a handful of the individual illustrations from the project printed separately.

Here are just a few images to get a sense: the SI cover, Robert’s separate lithograph of “The Master’s Hands” (that’s what they called Arcaro - “The Master”), the title page of the portfolio and couple of interior page shots. Robert’s attention to the visual detail of the true Art of Race Riding is extraordinary.

Arcaro’s Triple Crown wins came in 1938 and 1941. So Robert missed those races. (He had just turned 14 in 1938, and in 1941, he was headed to the Merchant Marine.) But he was able to photograph two great Triple Crown winning partnerships: Jean Cruguet on Seattle Slew (1977) and Steve Cauthen on Affirmed the following year.

Those stories and pics coming up this week!

Also, in light of my reference above to a “steadier horse-racing time,” I will post a recognition that those times weren’t steady for everyone. The post will highlight the very significant, and too often neglected, contribution of African-American trainers, grooms, and jockeys in the long history of US horse-racing. 

Finally, I’ll do a breakdown of “The Art of Race Riding” on Friday, with each of its parts: Notes on Race Riding, Pre-Race, The Start, The Whip, and The Finish.

Robert’s photographs and drawings will accompany each.

If you’re interested, we actually have a limited number of the original Art of Race Riding portfolios available, as well as any number of racing photographs. Let me know, and I’ll send more details.

In the meantime: here’s to this Saturday’s Black-Eyed Susans! And stay tuned this week.



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