Wedgwood and Royal Ascot: art imitating life
PUBLISHED: 14:54 14 June 2013 | UPDATED: 14:54 14 June 2013
When the Royal Ascot Racing Club acquired the progeny of celebrated stallion Mastercraftsman, there was just one name that fit the bill.
The name ‘Wedgwood’ is a name known by every UK household and his story is one of such import and relevance that his name was lent to the first-crop colt sired by Irish stallion, Mastercraftsman. The aforementioned link is clear when it is mentioned that Josiah was himself the master craftsman whose name is synonymous with elegant 18th century pottery and, in 2013, the Wedgwood company still creates works of great beauty – the name, iconic.
But the link doesn’t stop there. Horses have been a large part of the Wedgwood story since its very beginning. Remembered as the ‘Father of English Potters’, Josiah used them as an essential part of his everyday life, from personal transport to carrying his ceramic wares to his showrooms and bringing raw materials into his factory.
In 1759, he began his career as an independent potter in Burslem, Staffordshire, aged just 29.
He began to experiment with clay, exploring its many possibilities. Creative, energetic, an astute businessman and patron of the arts, he quickly became Britain’s most inspired and successful ceramics pioneer. He transformed English pottery from a cottage craft to an art form and international industry. His pioneering spirit and vigorous design policy ensured that he was able to create affordable luxury products for his customers, which quickly became world famous. Josiah’s commitment to exacting standards of quality are values that remain at the heart of the company today.
In 1775, Josiah Wedgwood met George Stubbs, one of Britain’s greatest and most celebrated horse painters. The two possessed a spirit of scientific enquiry and experiment that encouraged them to constantly push the boundaries of the arts and manufacture in the burgeoning Industrial Age.
George asked Josiah to manufacture specially created tablets suitable for him to paint on using enamel colours. Initially unsure, Josiah described the idea as a “very hazardous thing to make,” warning that
“I cannot promise success”. However, he immediately started a series of experiments to develop a new and innovative way of firing these flat tablets.
A portrait of Josiah painted on a large oval terracotta ceramic plaque celebrates the pair’s eventual success. Josiah had clearly seen the manufacture of these ‘canvasses’ as the start of a new commercial venture, writing in May 1779. “At present, I think we should give Mr Stubbs every encouragement to proceed and establish a fashion. He wishes, you know, to do something for us by way of setting off against the tablets. My picture and Mrs Wedgwood in enamel will do something…
I should have no objection to a family piece, or rather two, perhaps, in oil, if he should visit us this summer at Etruria”.
However, it was not until a year later that Stubbs visited Etruria in July 1780, staying with the Wedgwood family for several months. During this time, he painted the celebrated equestrian group portrait of the entire Wedgwood family in the grounds of their home, Etruria Hall. The picture, in oil on a wooden panel, was worked on over several months and was completed later that year. The original is on display today at the Wedgwood Museum in Barlaston, Staffordshire, where many visitors comment that the exquisite detail of the horses is better than the humans. Josiah himself was rumoured to be less impressed with the iconic portrait, feeling that it made his children look like puppets.
Keep it in the family
Wedgwood was bought on behalf of Harry and John Herbert at the Goffs Sale in Ireland for €120,000 by bloodstock agents Peter and Ross Doyle and will be trained this year by Richard Hannon.
Harry Herbert is the founder and Chairman of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing. He explained that, when it came to naming the offspring of Mastercraftsman, there was just one name the Royal Ascot Racing Club wanted to give: Wedgwood.
“Weatherbys, who control the naming process for racing in this country, informed us that we would need to get permission from Wedgwood to use the name and, having contacted Anthony Jones, Wedgwood’s Executive Vice President, we were thrilled to bits that permission was granted,” he says.
Harry explained the way in which Wedgwood became part of the Royal Ascot Racing Club’s team of horses for 2013:
“Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Mastercraftsman won seven races, including the St James’s Palace Stakes,” says Harry of Wedgwood’s celebrated father. “He also finished second to the brilliant Sea The Stars in the 2009 Juddmonte International Stakes at York.
“Wedgwood is a fine advertisement for his sire’s first crop and he also boasts a wonderful female family as his mother, Vingt Et Une, is a Sadler’s Wells, half-sister to the French Derby winner Hernando. Wedgwood is a strong and very athletic colt who looks sure to make up into a summer two-year-old. Being by Mastercraftsman, we were keen to name him Wedgwood – for obvious reasons!”
Join the club!
The purchase comes as the Royal Ascot Racing Club celebrates its 15th birthday. Since its inception in 1998, members have shared in some wonderful on-track moments, including the John Warren purchased Motivator winning the 2005 Vodafone Derby. Ascot Racecourse has purchased many highly successful horses that are trained with racing luminaries such as Sir Michael Stoute, Richard Hannon and Michael Bell.
The Hon. Harry Herbert
Founder and Chairman Highclere Thoroughbred Racing LTD
Harry’s main role is in managing the horses. He began his career in the thoroughbred industry in 1982 with the US equine computer company Bloodstock Research. In 1992, he started Highclere Thoroughbred Racing and has enjoyed phenomenal success, ensuring their position as leader in the field of racehorse syndication. He also works closely with his brother-in-law
John Warrenin buying yearlings. Highclere has produced no fewer than seven champions, including Harbinger, who was the highest rated horse in the world in 2010. The other champions – in addition to Harbinger and Motivator – are Lake Coniston,
Delilah, Tamarisk, Petrushka (who became the first syndicate-owned horse to win a Classic) and Memory. Harry has also been the Non-Executive Chairman of British Bloodstock Marketing.
In addition to managing the Royal Ascot Racing Club’s bloodstock, Harry is Racing Consultant for Cartier, a Member of the Jockey Club and a Director of Newbury Racecourse PLC. He is also on the Board of the British Horseracing Education and Standards Trust.
Emma Banks joined the Ascot Raceday team in 1994. She focused on customer care, owners and race presentations. Since 1999, Emma has brought a wealth of Club management experience to the
Royal Ascot Racing Club. She also brings warmth and dedication – her vivacity and tact make members feel truly special. Her attention to every detail is paramount, quality service, fabulous food and smiling faces are essential. Emma manages the housekeeping and administration of the Club. You can join the Club waiting list by contacting her on 01344 878543 or at email@example.com
Each member shares in the prize money won by the horses. All racing and training expenses are included in the Club’s annual subscription and the risk-free enjoyment provided by the horses offers an exciting alternative to individual racehorse ownership.
Members and one guest have access on all Ascot racedays to the two superb Club rooms. The south side overlooks the Pre-Parade Ring while the north side overlooks the winning line. Both Club rooms offer superb dining by renowned ‘Rhubarb Food and Design’ serving complimentary canápes, lunch and afternoon tea, with champagne and wines throughout the day. There are also opportunities to bring additional guests during the year.
There are many great opportunities organised by the Club, including stable visits, overnight stays at the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket and the popular Highclere Stud Yearling Parade.
Royal Ascot, 18th to 22nd June. Tradition, pageantry, style and spectacular racing at this unique occasion. Exclusive packages from £32pp.
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The above is featured in the 2013 edition of Royal Ascot Magazine.
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