Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien might do a double take if he saw the cover of this year's Official Kentucky Derby Program. The retro-styled artwork of John Mattos, a leading American graphic artist based in San Francisco, depicts two horses, straining for the finish line, with the Churchill Downs Twin Spires in the background.
The image is similar to a photograph of the finish of the 2015 Epsom Oaks, in which the O'Brien-trained filly Qualify, sent off at odds of 50-1, edged the favored Legatissimo by the narrowest of margins.
The photo was taken by Hugh Routledge of REX Shutterstock and appeared in the Guardian website.
What is most striking about the two images is the use of the white martingale – a piece of tack used to control a horse's head movements – something only occasionally seen on American-trained racehorses.
This would not be the first time U.S. racing was inspired by the British. In 1872 Meriwether Lewis Clark traveled to Europe and attended the Epsom Derby in England, a horse race inaugurated in 1780. He came back to Kentucky and with the help of others established the Louisville Jockey Club, the track now known as Churchill Downs, then inaugurated the first Kentucky Derby in 1875.
The similarity of these two images certainly gives new meaning to the phrase “Oaks-Derby Double.”
This image and other artwork by Mattos are available for purchase here.
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