A life-sized sculpture of the legendary racehorse John Henry, created by equine sculptor Nina Kaiser, was unveiled before an Opening Day crowd of over 35,000 in Santa Anita Park’s Paddock Gardens on Saturday, 26 December 2009.
The unveiling was part of the historic racetrack’s diamond anniversary, and was attended by the horse’s Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally and Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr.
“Magnificent!” proclaimed McAnally “It looks just like him. Nina captured the heart and spirit of John Henry. Every inch of the sculpture is John”.
The statue was commissioned by Santa Anita following the two time Horse of The Year’s death in 2007. Ms. Kaiser worked for 18 months on the sculpture, which measures 15.2 hands and weighs approximately 1000 lbs, the exact same size and weight as John Henry himself and features authentic details of the tack he wore, down to the saddle, bridle and trademark shadow roll.
Born in 1975, “John” as he was known to his many fans, was a rags-to-riches story, starting out life as a scrawny youngster who once sold for $1100. In a storied 7-year career, the horse went on to become Thoroughbred racing’s all-time leading money winner at the time of his retirement with $6,591,860 in earnings and 39 career victories. At the conclusion of his racing career he was moved to the Kentucky Horse Park, where he was a popular attraction for 22 years until his death at age 32 on 8 October, 2007.
The statue of John Henry has been permanently installed near the Kingsbury Fountain in Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens and joins the immortal Seabiscuit as only the second horse to be honored with a statue in the track’s 75-year history.
Nina Kaiser has been one of the leading creators of equine sculpture for over 25 years. Her commission list includes 4 Horse of the Years and winners of The Kentucky Derby, The Breeders Cup Classic and the Prix de l’Arc d’Triomphe. Her life-sized statue of John Henry was recently unveiled at Santa Anita Park and joins busts of Hall of Fame jockeys Laffit Pincay, Jr. and Chris McCarron as Ms. Kaiser’s third major work to be permanently installed at Santa Anita. For further information see www.equinesculpture.com