It sits regally on a bookshelf in the family room. An elegant sterling silver trophy topped by a splendid horse and rider, fashioned with horseshoe shape handles.
Trainer H. Graham Motion earned his Kentucky Derby Winner’s Trophy last May when his strapping chestnut colt Animal Kingdom powerfully accelerated down the stretch winning the 137th running of the world’s most famous race.
Recalling the moment in his barn at the Fair Hill Training Center, Motion’s eyes sparkle.
“It was an amazing experience,” Motion relates. “To win the Derby is not something I ever expected to do. It is the pinnacle of racing.”
It has been a storybook time for Motion since his turf horse Shared Account won a $2 million Breeders’ Cup race in November 2010. Motion closed that year with more than $6.4 million in earnings, the ninth leading U. S. trainer. He moved into the upper echelon of trainers in 2011 as the fourth leading trainer with earnings in excess of $8 million as of November 5.
Tucked on the border of Chester County and Maryland, Motion’s Herringwell Stable is a handsome structure with expansive polished wood stalls surrounded by 350 acres of serenity, far from the constant clamor at the racetrack. His mornings start at 5:30 as he puts his horses through their training paces.
Like clockwork every horse is turned out in a grassy paddock for 30 minutes of freedom before they are exercised in groups, or “sets.” Their workouts vary from a leisurely walk to a jog, gallop or “breeze,” sprinting at race-like speeds of 40 miles an hour at Fair Hill’s training track.
He first laid eyes on the mechanical boy in 1935, at age six.
Over the past four decades Charles Penniman has researched, gently cared for and operated one of the world’s greatest mechanical treasures, the marvelous automaton (pronounced aw-TOM-ah-tah) that resides at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
Created around 1800 by Henri Maillardet, the “Draughtsman-Writer” automaton depicts a young boy at a desk who is capable of rendering four intricate and graceful drawings and three poems (two in French, one in English) on blank sheets of paper.
“It’s amazing that this delicate device can do it,” said Penniman, 83, a retired staff educator at the museum. “But what is really amazing is that it still does it after 200 years.”
Long before there were electricity and electric motors, skilled artisans built these complex mechanical wonders. They worked using complicated cogs and clockwork mechanisms and resembled humans or animals that imitated life. During the 19th century wealthy people would show them off at parties.
This Philadelphia story unfolds in November 1928. A truck pulled up to the Franklin Institute’s original location on Seventh Street and dropped off the shattered and fire-scarred remains of a mechanical brass boy dressed in a tattered red soldier’s jacket. After years of painstaking work to reassemble the automaton it was unveiled at the opening of the Franklin Institute at its new location on the Parkway in 1934.
Beyond the adulation, awards and mega-star treatment over a four-decade career, Bruce Springsteen remains a Jersey guy. Back in the winter of 1978 at the urging of musician Patti Smith he turned up at photographer Frank Stefanko’s house in Haddonfield, N. J. The two roamed the town’s streets that day in search of an album cover shot for “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” They pulled up in front of Frank’s barber shop.
“The photo depicted a young Bruce, with a leather jacket and an unruly hairdo, leaning against the barber pole and there was a reflection of his face in the chrome of the pole,” said Stefanko, 65, who now lives in Palmrya, N. J. “There were religious artifacts showing through the window, the lucky number seven hung over the shop and a part of a surfboard was in the window next door. It was pure small town New Jersey and symbolized Bruce’s life to that point. It’s my favorite photograph.”
Their photographic collaboration lasted five years, producing thousands of images and a second album cover photo for “The River.” In another Haddonfield session Stefanko captured Springsteen famously sitting on the hood of his 1960 Corvette parked in front of his house.
Stefanko’s iconic black and white pictures and the eye-popping Corvette convertible will be on display at the National Constitution Center that plays host to the blockbuster exhibition “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.” Celebrated as an icon of free speech, the Springsteen exhibit runs from through Sept.3.
It was Wayne’s World back in 1995. The equine empire of D. Wayne Lukas boasted stars in nearly every stable and his three year old crop was superlative. The hard-charging horseman conditioned a sensational filly and an imposing, powerful champion who was everyone’s Kentucky Derby favorite. The third-stringer was a spunky, little chestnut colt.
”He is in a stall between a ballerina and a Juvenile champ,” Lukas said back then of Thunder Gulch who was stabled between Serena’s Song and Timber Country in the trainer’s barn at Santa Anita Park. “They both have loads of charisma. He’s a bit of a red-headed stepchild.”
In search of softer foes Lukas sent Thunder Gulch packing in February of 1995, headed to South Florida and the $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. It was the first major Kentucky Derby prep for eastern three-year olds. It was a tall order for Thunder Gulch considering it was the unheralded colt’s first start in nine weeks and he had traveled cross-country just 48 hours prior to the Grade-2 event.
The Fountain of Youth was run for the first time in 1945. The distance varied until 1953, when it was set at 1 1/16 miles. Trainers liked the idea of 1 1/16 mile and two turns for developing newly minted three-years into classic prospects. Soon the race blossomed into an attractive stepping stone for Gulfstream’s premier race, the Florida Derby in late March.
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Cruising along the Overseas Highway, the ride feels more like a nature trail than a roadway. Butterflies fly backward. Miniature deer bound through green mangroves.
You roll through those wide-open mangrove swamps, everglades and savannas the whole way to Key Largo, Fla. Look for wading birds such as herons, and, in season, roseate spoonbills, that turn progressively pinker during their stay in the Everglades.
Eighteen miles from the mainland you arrive in Key Largo, made famous in that Bogie and Bacall movie of 1948. It is sandwiched between the watery wilderness of the Everglades National Park to the west and the fish-covered coral formations of North America's only living coral barrier reef to the east. The reef is located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, just three miles from the shores of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Mile Marker 102).
Fieldstones are more than just building blocks to Peter Sculthorpe. They are pieces of a puzzle. When he built stone walls near his former home on the old King Ranch property outside Unionville, Sculthorpe handpicked every stone. Made sure they fit seamlessly, no matter how long it took.
Time well spent. Those sturdy fieldstones, old trees with ageless character, and lovely time-worn architecture have often been the brick and mortar of the nationally recognized artist’s meticulous watercolors and richly painted oils that over the years have captured the essence of the Brandywine Valley.
In his paintings even the smallest details convey messages, telling stories to the viewer. Sculthorpe also travels extensively to gather inspiration and subject material for his works. Over the past fifteen years his sharp eye and gifted hand have captured the rugged coasts of Maine and the maritime provinces of Canada as well as a vivid Oregon coast at sunset.
For two years running the $750,000 Cotillion Stakes at Parx racetrack in early October has been a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. Last year’s thriller featured Havre de Grace who held off the favorite Blind Luck by a neck and took home Pennsylvania’s richest purse for fillies.
The 2011 edition appears to have provided a serious contender for the $3 Million Ladies Classic to be run under the lights at Churchill Downs on November 4.
Plum Pretty broke sharply out of the gate, grabbed the lead and never looked back en route to a 7 1/2-length victory in the Cotillion. The much anticipated rematch between Grade-1 winners Plum Pretty and It’s Tricky turned out to be no match at all.
Chester County-bred Plum Pretty was making her first start in her home state. Born at Mark Reid's Walnut Green Farm, the filly’s mother Liszy is partially owned by former University of Pennsylvania basketball player Vince Curran. Plum Pretty arrived from California for the race.
For the past fifteen years I’ve been a contributing writer to a variety of national & regional magazines, prominent daily news-papers and websites. I have written about an array of topics such as arts & culture, chefs, food & drink, business entrepreneurs, travel, history, thoroughbred racing, and the animal and natural world.
I'm currently a regular arts & culture contributor to WFIT's website (the NPR radio station in Melbourne.), Vero Beach Magazine and Florida Today newspaper on a number of topics. Over recent years my work has been published regularly in Blood-Horse, Long Island Boating World and The Hunt and PA Equestrian magazines.
I am a regular contributor to the websites JustLuxe.com and SeeTheSouth.com. JustLuxe is an online magazine featuring the best of luxury lifestyle and travel, while SeeTheSouth features truly unique southern destinations. My travel articles also regularly appear in Florida Today, Long Island Boating world and the Delaware County Times, a major daily newspaper just outside Philly.
I've also contributed a variety of articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Delaware County Times, and the Montgomery County Newspapers. I have been an Arts & Culture correspondent for Newsworks, the website for WHYY-TV (PBS in Philadelphia). I have been a correspondent to ESPN.com, America's Best Racing, the Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
After spending the past two decades in Wilmington, Delaware, my wife Jane, our Toller retriever Smarty and I have moved to Melbourne Beach, Fla. Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, Melbourne Beach sits on the southern end of Florida's "Space Coast." The famed coastal highway A1A runs directly along the Atlantic. Melbourne Beach (pop. 3,000) offers unspoiled beaches with sparkling blue-green waters and thousands of beautiful seabirds and long-legged shorebirds.
Head north 35 miles on A1A and you arrive at Cape Canaveral, for decades our nation's gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. Today, Cape Canaveral is a hub for many of the most exciting new private space projects such as SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company founded by Elon Musk (manufacturer of Tesla vehicles). Upwards of 30 launches are planned in 2017.
Back down to earth traveling on two-lane A1A south from Melbourne Beach's compact business area brings you to a series of secluded and undeveloped natural beaches. Bonsteel Park's two-acre beach provides an excellent vantage point to catch glimpses of passing dolphins, while the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. It's also home to the gigantic leatherback turtles.
Nearby is Sebastian Inlet State Park which connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. Its jetty break is recognized as one of the surf world's high-performance hot spots. Three generations of world-class surfers have surfed here, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. The 600-acre park is also celebrated for world-class fishing, and plenty of seabirds and wildlife.
Through my writing over the past decade I have traveled to spectacular destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Sun Valley, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming/Yellowstone Park; Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck, New York; Port Clyde and Monheghan Island, Maine; Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Middleburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.
Other travel adventures have included Tampa and St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Florida; and St. Simons and Jekyll Island, Georgia. My travel articles thoughtfully explore the history of the region along with museums, music and the arts, chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and craft breweries, outdoor and sporting adventures as well as profiling intriguing personalities of those regions.
In addition to my writing career I owned a marketing company where I represented a diversified list of clients in the areas of publicity, marketing and business development-- such as the famed Baldwin's Book Barn, Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Kahunaville restaurant chain. In another life I was the founder, publisher and editor of Life Sports Magazine.
Along with Jane and Smarty I look forward to writing about new adventures in Melbourne Beach, the "Space Coast" and other Florida destinations. That's Smarty below with his pals Willie and Nelson.