Saturday, May 30, 2009

eBay find: Trophy won by The Axe II

Far as horse racing-related eBay unearthings go the cool factor on this lot achieves Grade 1 status. So does the price.

For sale with an asking price of $6,800 is the Shreve of San Francisco-crafted, Sterling silver trophy for the 1963 Benjamin F. Lindheimer Handicap at Arlington Park in Chicago. The 12-furlong turf test (and, presumably, this trophy) was won that year by a superb horse who went on to be a significant influence on the breed as a sire, The Axe II (Mahmoud-Blackball, by Shut Out). Second dam of The Axe II was the Blue Larkspur mare Big Event, who was out of the thoroughbred world's Mother Superior, La Troienne herself.

The Axe II sired such great runners as Haskell winner Hatchet Man, Met Mile champion Executioner, Hawthorne Juvenile winner Al Hattab, Arkansas Derby winner Twist the Axe, and Hollywood Oaks winner Last of the Line.

If you don't eBay, you can visit the New York-based seller, Lauren Stanley Silver, and see the piece here.

The spectacular prize ain't your typical horse-racing platter or cup. The futuristic design was befitting of Lindheimer's vision, in racing, business and philanthropy; after his death in 1960, his family donated to establish the Lindheimer Astrophysical Research Center, dedicated in 1967 at Northwestern University. (The center served until it was razed due to asbestos in 1995).

But Lindheimer was a horseman at heart. He became head of racing at the long-since-gone Washington Park Race Track in 1935, and at Arlington Park beginning in 1940, promoting the legendary Washington Park Swaps vs. Nashua match race. Lindheimer put together the Balmoral Jockey Club group that purchased Lincoln Fields in 1955, renaming it Balmoral Park. He died in 1960.

The Lindheimer trophy isn't just a striking work of silver; weighing in at 40 ounces, it also features a center pillar -- between a silver base and the silver artwork (with hidden storage box) atop -- that is made of red jasper stone.

Silver's price is on the rise, but at $15.61 an ounce at the close of Friday trading, the trophy is priced much higher than its sheer precious-metal value. That's a good thing, I suppose. At least it won't end up melted down.

As for the race, it was often a stellar contest, won a year before this particular trophy was presented (that is, in 1962) by Prove It, and in 1971 by Princess Pout (after the race was shortened to 9 1/2 furlongs), who went on to become the dam of the great turf runner and sire, Alleged (by Hoist the Flag). Arlington icon Earlie Fires rode 22-1 shot Tampa Trouble to an upset win over favored Figonero in 1969.

I hope someone gives this trophy a deserving home. Maybe even Arlington Park itself. This piece should be in a museum setting or in the collection of someone who will truly appreciate it.

Someone like me, but with money.


  1. Great find...I'm always keeping an eye out for racing related memorabilia as I follow my gf around various antique/yard sales. I'll be keeping a closer eye on trophys from here on out!



  2. Thanks for the kudos.

    I also saw this item, No. 390040644964, billed as the silver platter for the winner (name not engraved) of the 1918 California Interstate Handicap. But, somebody correct me if need be, I don't believe that there was any racing in California between the closure of the original Santa Anita Park in 1909 and the death of its founder "Lucky" Baldwin.

    I actually think the latter item might be a trophy from the "Interstate Handicap" shooting contests held in the day, with live birds as targets. My research has found period advertisements for shotgun shells billed as used by the winners of these events.

    I can't find any evidence of a "California Interstate Handicap" horse race, though that doesn't mean it never existed. (Maybe something in Baja California? At Agua Caliente?)

  3. Errr ... that's "no racing in California" between the death of Lucky Baldwin in 1909 and the opening of "Doc" Strub's "new" Santa Anita in 1934.


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