2020 Fine Sporting Art, American Paintings, and Sculpture
31| Gean Smith (American, 1851-1928)
The Futurity 1894, Sheep Shead Bay, The Butterflies, H. Griffin-Up
Signed & dated 1894
Oil on canvas, 29" x 58"
Auction Expired because there were no bids
$10000. - $15000.
Signed & dated 1894
This monumental work by renowned equestrian artist Gean Smith depicts David Gideon and John Daly?s filly The Butterflies, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Henry Griffin, defeating Perry Belmont?s Brandywine in the Futurity Stakes of 1894. There are precious few original works depicting the once-famous Sheepshead Bay racetrack, and the current offering is one of the finest examples known to exist. Smith?s composition offers a rare and unique perspective of racegoers in the infield at Sheepshead Bay as they witness the frenzied finish of one of the most anticipated races of the year. The 1894 Futurity Stakes The Futurity Stakes was run annually at Sheepshead Bay until the track?s closure in 1910. The race was later moved to Belmont Park and remains one of the most prestigious 2-year-old races on the present calendar. The Futurity Stakes of 1894 offered a record purse of $50,000. The description of the race published in the Atlanta Constitution reads: ?Brandywine, who got off in the rear ranks, and who was unable to get through until the last furlong of the race was in progress, then made his effort. Clayton sent Brandywine after The Butterflies like a shot from a cannon. Griffin saw his danger and began to urge his sterling good filly. She responded to the last gasp ? Griffin fought like a young demon, and the wonderful courage of the filly alone staved off defeat. Brandywine managed to get his nose to her withers, but could get no further before the all-important line was crossed, and the Futurity of 1894 went on record as having been won by The Butterflies by a neck from Brandywine.? (The Atlanta Constitution, August 26, 1894) Ezekiel Clay and Catesby Woodford bred The Butterflies, foaling her at Runnymede Stud in 1892. David Gideon and John Daly purchased the filly for $1,800, and she quickly became one of the stars of their stable. An article published in the New York Times explains how Gideon came to call his newly acquired filly The Butterflies: ?The Butterflies was named after the successful comedy in which John Drew played for so many months last season. Charles Frohman, Mr. Drew?s personal manager, and ?Dave? Gideon are warm personal friends. After the Brooklyn Handicap Mr. Gideon took Mr. Frohman over to his stables and showed him his horses. Then he told the theatrical manager that he might name any of the 2-year-olds. ?This one I am going to name myself,? said Gideon, pointing out the pretty filly that won such a great race and won him a fortune last Saturday. ?She is being worked for the Futurity, and I am going to call her ?The Butterflies.? I like the play of that name. I think she?s a winner too.? So the filly was named The Butterflies.? (The New York Times, August 29, 1894) Gideon?s premonition proved correct, if not somewhat understated, as The Butterflies went on to be the first filly to win the prestigious Futurity Stakes, shattering the previous stakes record by 1 1/5 seconds. The Butterflies suffered several setbacks in her 2-year-old campaign and made only three starts, but she managed to earn $54,690 ? the highest earnings ever for a 2-year-old filly in the United States. The Butterflies was crowned U.S. champion 2-year-old filly in 1894 and U.S. champion 3-year-old filly in 1895 after winning the Gazelle Stakes and the Fall Handicap.
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