Willits, CA, January 31, 2006 -- After an absence of more than 55 years, a life-sized bronze sculpture of the legendary American racehorse Seabiscuit is coming back to its original home in northern California.
Workers in Salt Lake City and the San Francisco Bay Area are now crafting an exact replica of the original statue and granite pedestal that until 1951 stood prominently at Seabiscuit’s home and final resting place, Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, California. The monument will be finished this spring and transported by truck to Willits for its official (by invitation) unveiling at the ranch on Saturday morning, June 23. Along the way, the truck and statue will pass by the racing sites of some of Seabiscuit’s greatest triumphs.
“It’s just wonderful to be getting a statue of the Biscuit back to the ranch where it belongs,” said Tracy Livingston, President of the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, 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 statue will remind this and future generations of Americans of a time in our country’s history when a little racehorse with a big heart captured the imagination of an entire nation.”
Famed Western artist and sculptor Hughlette “Tex” Wheeler cast two statues from Seabiscuit in 1940-41 while the horseracing legend was still alive. Seabiscuit died in 1947 at age 14.
The statue at Ridgewood was moved to Binglin Stable in Moorpark, California after the owner of the famed horse and ranch, San Francisco Buick car dealer and entrepreneur, Charles Howard, died and his family sold the property. About a decade ago, the Howard family donated the monument to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. It now occupies a place of honor just outside the museum.
In February 1941, Seabiscuit himself helped unveil the second statue at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California where it remains in the picturesque garden paddock area.
Chris and Anita Lowe of Bishopstone, Wiltshire U.K., benefactors of the foundation and collectors of Seabiscuit memorabilia, generously provided funding for the monument. The general public can view the statue for the first time on Saturday, June 30. Reservations must be made in advance at 707-459-7910.
Custom design statue makers, Icon Bronze of Anchorage, Alaska and its affiliate, Atlas Bronze Casting of Salt Lake City, are making the replica from a new rubber and fiberglass mold of the original in Saratoga Springs. V. Fontana, a family-owned and -operated fine granite and marble products manufacturer near San Francisco, is producing the five-ton dark diamond gray granite pedestal. Under its founder, Valerio Fontana, the company made the original base. It plans to use the same polishing equipment to finish the granite and duplicate the look and lettering of the original. The inscription will remain as before: “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.”
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. Recently, a new generation has been introduced to the Seabiscuit tale through the book “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” by Laura Hillenbrand and an Academy Award-nominated movie.
“If I had the choice of any horse in history to be in a nose-to-nose battle from the top of the stretch to the wire, there is no horse who ever lived that I’d choose over Seabiscuit,” Hillenbrand has said. “He was extraordinarily tenacious.”
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.
The Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization formed to promote the cultural legacy of the Ridgewood Ranch through historic preservation, environmental conservation and public education. To make a contribution or for further information, contact the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, @Ridgewood Ranch, 16200 Highway 101, Willits, CA 95460, or firstname.lastname@example.org. The foundation Web site address is www.seabiscuitheritage.org
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