Lot 275Important American Sterling Silver Trophy Won by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Jr's Native Dancer in the 1953 Preakness Stakes
Marks for Schofield Co. Baltimore, Maryland
Surmounted by the figure of the jockey-mounted horse 'Lexington' above a rosette-mounted ring and a bowl with four figures of Winged Victory, holding wreaths in each hand, the sides with four cartouches, two engraved WON BY / NATIVE DANCER / OWNER ALFRED G. VANDERBILT and THE PREAKNESS / $100,000 ADDED / MAY 23, 1953, the base with fences, a stallion, mare and foal on a cruciform plinth with racing saddle, whip and jockey cap, race shoes at the sides. Height 21 inches (53.3 cm), diameter 8 1/2 inches (21.5 cm), approximately 97 ounces.
There are few American racing collectibles as important and evocative as the "owner's trophy" awarded to Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr.'s Native Dancer in the 1953 Preakness Stakes. Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr. is a towering figure in the history of Maryland racing. He was the owner of Pimlico Race Course and twice its President (the first time at age 20), and he arranged the famous match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral at Pimlico in 1938. Vanderbilt, a PT Boat Captain in World War II (his father had died aboard the Lusitania), was also the owner of Sagamore Farm in Maryland where Native Dancer, born in Kentucky, was raised and trained.
As a two-year-old in 1952, hard-charging Native Dancer, nicknamed the Grey Ghost, was undefeated and headed into the 1953 Kentucky Derby -- the first to be aired live on television -- as the crowd favorite to win. Unfortunately, Native Dancer was bumped at the start and finished second, the only loss in his career. Native Dancer was also the heavy favorite heading into the Preakness Stakes a few weeks later, which he won in another hotly contested race, as well as the Belmont and Travers Stakes. He retired to stud at Sagamore Farms with a record of 21 wins in 22 races and went on to sire many later champions.
The story of the Preakness trophy itself is equally compelling: the original Woodlawn Vase, a massive 36-inch-tall trophy made of sterling silver by Tiffany & Co. in 1860 for Woodlawn Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, was first awarded in 1861, but buried for safety during the Civil War. The Woodlawn Vase became the winner's trophy for the Preakness Stakes in 1917, to be held by the winner for one year only. This stood until 1953, the year of Native Dancer's victory, when Mrs. Jeanne Murray Vanderbilt, the wife of Alfred, declined the statue given its historical importance to the sport, and the Woodlawn Vase was sent to the Baltimore Art Museum. A replica of the trophy, made by the Baltimore firm of Schofield (and still made locally by a descendant company) was commissioned to be given to the winner of the Preakness from then forward. Thus the current trophy is the first of the modern Preakness Stakes trophies and the oldest in private hands.
A great rarity to racing collectors, we trace only one Preakness Stakes trophy sold at auction, that for the 1970 winner Personality, who did not achieve as many wins or gain the national affection showered on Native Dancer in 1953. Nor did it have an owner as highly regarded and influential to the history of the sport as Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr. The current trophy is truly one of the most compelling treasures of thoroughbred racing.
Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr. (1912-1999), to his son
Alfred G. Vanderbilt
C Property of Alfred G. Vanderbilt
Sold for $100,000
In very good condition overall, with light surface scratches, minor bruises to edges consistent with age, on the underside one nut apparently replaced and glued in place, light shelf wear to feet.
Any condition statement is given as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Doyle New York shall have no responsibility for any error or omission. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging.