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Hovdey: Collected pops out of Pacific Classic portrait

Monday, June 25th, 2018

The 2017 Pacific Classic official portrait of Collected, by Dagmar Galleithner-Steiner, was unveiled this week by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Upon arriving at Del Mar last summer for the Pacific Classic, Peter Fluor lingered in the ground-floor hallway near the clubhouse escalators to admire a collection of equine portraits that depicted the various Classic winners through the years.

A few hours later, after Collected carried the Speedway Stable colors of Fluor and partner K.C. Weiner to victory in the Classic’s 27th running, the only image burned into the owner’s brain was the sight of their handsome chestnut defeating the heavily favored Arrogate.

“When I saw the paintings, I thought, ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool,’ ” Fluor said. “But then I kind of put it out of my head. We knew we had a good horse ready to run a big race. But he still had to deal with Arrogate at a mile and a quarter. After it happened, to tell you the truth I forgot all about those paintings.”

Until this week, that is, when Fluor got a sneak digital peek at the official portrait of the 2017 Pacific Classic winner while attending the Fasig-Tipton yearing sale in Maryland. The painting had been quietly unveiled by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and is being displayed in the track’s executive offices.

“What can I say?” Fluor said, admiring the sight of Collected in full flight at the finish. “It’s beautiful. He’s beautiful.”

The tradition of an annual commission for Pacific Classic artwork was born with the race in 1991, when 3-year-old Best Pal defeated a field of older horses that included Unbridled, Twilight Agenda, Festin, and Farma Way. The most recent four winners of the Pacific Classic – Shared Belief, Beholder, California Chrome, and now Collected – have been rendered in various poses by Dagmar Galleithner-Steiner, the German-born artist whose classic style of equine portraiture is reminiscent of the work of Christine Picavet and Richard Stone Reeves.

Collected is captured with all four feet off the ground, nearing the Classic finish, with jockey Martin Garcia coiled low in a powerful hand ride. Since Arrogate was making a belated charge in the middle of the track, the angle allowed the artist to depict only the winner, even though the final margin was half a length.

“It was the most challenging painting of the four,” Galleithner-Steiner said from her home studio in Kentucky. “In the original background I had the video board showing Arrogate in the picture, because I thought his presence in the race was important.”

Historically, yes. Artistically, maybe not so much. The people she had to please felt the winner deserved all the focus, so Galleithner-Steiner, who works in pastels, was asked to simplify the background.

“If I’d had the time, I would have done a new painting,” she said. “I didn’t have any experience brushing out something already done in pastels. So I stood there, closed my eyes, and put down a first brush stroke of the covering color. After that it was easy, but it was hard.”

Okay, artists talk like that, and the process is way inside-baseball. Anyway, for those of us who don’t even have the talent to finger paint it is always the final product that counts. The bright chestnut image of Collected, the red and white silks, and Baffert blue shadow roll explode from a textured green backdrop that, if the imagination allows, could be read as merely a curtained extension of the turf course winding behind the main track.

“When it came to the horse, you really can’t do much wrong,” Galleithner-Steiner added. “His beautiful coat, his muscled hindquarters catching the light from the sun, the play of light and shadow at that time of day – I really fell in love with him.”

It bears reminding that Collected came within 2 1/4 lengths of possibly being hailed as 2017 Horse of the Year. That’s how far Gun Runner beat him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, after the son of City Zip had rattled off wins in the Santana Mile, the Grade 2 Californian, and the Grade 3 Precisionist before his score in the Pacific Classic put him on the national map.

Finishing second to Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic did nothing to tarnish Collected’s reputation, but lackluster losses in the subsequent San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita and the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park tended to spoil the view.

“It was quite obvious to us after the Pegasus,” Fluor said. “It was not his finest hour, and he was telling us something. He was tired and his feet were a little sore. So we’ve given him a bunch of time off.”

After a stretch of R&R, Collected is now at Mal McGuire’s training facility in Midway, Ky. If all continues to go well, Fluor hopes his horse can be returned to Baffert’s California stable this summer.

“Mal’s a good horseman and a great friend,” Fluor said. “He worked with Collected before he began his good run last year. Mal puts a Western saddle on him and rides him around his pasture, getting some real air in his lungs, so when he gets back to Bob he’ll have tone and be ready to train.

“I was real proud of him, especially since everyone said he’d never go beyond a mile,” Fluor added. “We’ve got our fingers crossed he can come back strong. In the meantime I look forward to standing in front of that painting at Del Mar.”

 

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Photo Credits:   Vassar Photography (Northern CA)  |  Benoit Photo (Southern CA)  |  Michael J. Marten (Southern CA)


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