‘Sculpting the Wind': The Story Behind the Barbaro Statue

The thousands of visitors who have visited Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum over the past year have marveled at the majestic statue that greets them on the plaza outside Gate 1.

The 1,500-pound bronze statue depicts ill-fated Barbaro as he was all out to win the 2006 Kentucky Derby. As by now is well known, the great son of Dynaformer out of La Ville Rouge sustained a broken leg in the Preakness Stakes, setting off a chain of events that were chronicled by the national media over the next several months. An urn containing Barbaro's ashes is buried beneath the statue at Churchill Downs.

The statue is the work of artist Alexa King, who was chosen to create the sculptor by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, whose Lael Stables raced Barbaro and his brothers. The Jacksons commissioned the statue and selected King from about 100 artists who sought the honor of being able to immortalize Barbaro in bronze.

How King, who was then living in Wisconsin but later relocated to Kentucky with her husband Erc Bolland and dogs, came to be chosen for the project and the pains-taking work that went into the final product that so many race fans enjoy is now depicted in a documentary entitled "Sculpting the Wind," produced by Allison Pareis, a student at Ball State University. Allison, who received a scholarship from the National Turf Writers Association and Youbet.com through the Race For Education, received a grant from WPIB-TV and Ball State University to produce the documentary.

Thanks to Race For Education chairman Ingordo and Jack and Laurie Wolf of Starlight Stables, who serve on the RFE board, "Sculpting the Wind" was premiered in the Pollard Gallery at the Kentucky Derby Museum during Derby week this year.

The film, lasting about 30 minutes, follows King, who is also a product of Ball State University, from the time she first began work on the statue through to the final step of seeing the artwork unveiled by the Jacksons during Derby Week 2009.

"He (Barbaro) outran the wind," the artist says in the film. "He ran faster than that."

A horsewoman, King transformed her two-car garage into a studio in order to build the statue.

"You never know when you pick up the phone what the next job request is going to be," Alexa said of having the opportunity to even be in the running for the statue.

It was pure joy," says the artist's husband of her selection. "But then reality set in and the challenge was ahead."

Allison takes the viewer through all the steps undertaken by the artist, including formulation and building of the frame on which the bronze finish would later be applied at a foundry in Colorado.

This is an entertaining and information look inside look of an artist at work. It is more about the artist than the horse, but is certainly a work that enjoyed by any horse enthusiast and especially the Friends of Barbaro.

One bonus in the documentary is the song "I Love to Run (A Song for Barbaro), by Nashville recording artist Templeton Thompson especially for "Sculpting the Wind."

Allison's goal is to have Public Broadcasting Service affiliates other than WPIB-TV air the documentary.

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