Life-size racehorse bronze unveiled

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  • The achievements of Be Friendly will be commemorated tomorrow when a life-size statue of the horse is unveiled at Haydock Park, the racecourse where the sprinter achieved the record feat of twice winning the Vernons November Sprint Cup.

    The bronze is by former jockey Philip Blacker, who is now a full-time sculptor. Philip says: “The horse is depicted in action and the entire weight of the statue, one tonne, is supported only by the horse’s hindlegs, which required getting structural engineers involved in the project.

    “I wanted to portray the power and charisma of the horse as he was a very powerful sprinter. I thought it would be more exciting to portray him at speed.”

    In 1966 the two-year-old Be Friendly won the inaugural running of what is now one of the most valuable sprints in European racing. He won again in 1967 and was fancied for a third victory, but was denied the chance by fog, which caused the meeting to be abandoned. He was trained by Cyril Mitchell and owned by former commentator Peter O’Sullevan, 85, who will be present for the unveiling on Saturday.

    Twenty smaller replicas of the bronze have also been made and 15 will be sold with some proceeds going to the Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, which raises money for animal welfare causes.

    One of the replicas will become the perpetual trophy for the Stanley Leisure Sprint Cup — the race which has developed out of the Vernons November Sprint Cup and which takes place at 2.15pm on Saturday. Stanley Leisure has just pledged its continuing support to Haydock Park until 2006, making this project possible.

    Philip, whose other life-size bronzes include Red Rum and Desert Orchid, has been working on the bronze since January, and says it takes three to four months to make such a piece and then three or four months to cast it.

    “Life-size horses have become my speciality,” Philip told HHO. “I combined racing with sculpting for about five years before hanging up my boots. I had always been interested in sculpting but never tried it until one day when I was racing at Devon and Exeter. I was travelling with a trainer when we picked up the owner, a sculptor called Margot Dent. We got talking and it was she who encouraged me and got me started.”

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