From the Apron with Stephen Bardsley: Introduction

From the Apron No.1 INTRODUCTION

I am excited about this new venture “From the Apron”, and want to take this opportunity to introduce myself, and my monthly column.

Quite honestly, I am in the infant stages of knowing about horses and horse racing. Typical of me though, when I get into something, I go all in, and am now obsessed with all things equine. I don’t know anything about, or can’t tell you anything about confirmation of a horse, training techniques, how to read the form, handicapping, past performances, bloodlines, and really don’t understand things like reverse odds. What I can tell you is, I like cool stuff and cool people! Clearly the stars of the “Sport of Kings” are the incredible Equine athletes, but there are so many fascinating people and stories that are never heard about on the apron for us as horse racing fans to learn and enjoy. I am fascinated by those people and stories, and will now bring you one every month.

"A Kiss For the Champ" by Stephen Bardsley.
“A Kiss For the Champ” by Stephen Bardsley.

I have been a sports fanatic and sports artist since I was a little boy. The athletes of baseball, football and hockey have been the primary subject of my artwork since graduating from the Corcoran School of Art with a BFA in the late 80’s. I have drawn hundreds of athletes from those sports. Then last year happened! A three year old colt named American Pharoah set out to win the first Triple Crown in 37 years. He won the Kentucky Derby, and as it does every year, the buzz started. Was this to be the year? I thought, “OK, I’ll play along”, and I started to follow the story.  He is a beautiful horse, and I started my first drawing of him. After all, he is an athlete, and that’s what I draw right? He did it, he won the Triple Crown!  A couple months later, I had my 11-year-old son in my car, and we were headed to the Jersey Shore to see AP run the Haskell at Monmouth Park. I was no stranger to big sporting events, but this one was huge, and I had never been to a horse race. Everything about that day was amazing! American Pharoah won the race while Jacob and I stood front row at Winners Circle. We were hooked!


Stephen and son Jacob at the 2015 Haskell.
Stephen and son Jacob at the 2015 Haskell. (photo: Stephen Bardsley)

Fast forward to the present. It has been an incredible year and a half since that race. The opportunities I have had, have been wonderful. I have been to some big races (Preakness, Haskell, Maryland Million, Travers), a few tracks (Laurel, Pimlico, Monmouth Park, Saratoga), visited some horse farms, my favorite being Sagamore (twice). To learn more, I attended the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Yearling Sale, and had the opportunity recently to attend the Maryland Million Gala with my wife. I have drawn a portfolio full of horses, started an Equine Art Blog, and met countless people along the way that I can now call friends. I must say though, that my favorite aspect of the entire thing is the time spent with my sons Jacob and Joshua. I have the ability now to take them to amazing live sporting events like my Pop did with me.  I have been impressed with the tracks I have been to, and how family and child friendly they are. Most have free parking and free admission. The food and drinks are fairly priced, and unless you lose your money at the windows, a full day at the races can be very cheap. A full race card keeps the boys interested and excited for hours with a new race starting not long after the last one ended.  That’s just the start though, my sons know some of our local jockeys, trainers, and TV commentators by name and can get autographs and pictures with them every time we go. Jacob has a couple pairs of race worn autographed Jockey goggles, and has been to the Jocks Room to deliver drawings at two different tracks. During a normal outing, we can move freely from the paddock, to the winner’s circle, to the grandstand, to the apron, pretty much wherever and whenever we want. Try any or all of that at a baseball or football stadium after spending a fortune to attend!

Stephen and danonymous racing founder Dan Tordjman during Preakness week 2016. (photo: Eric Kalet)
Stephen and danonymous racing founder Dan Tordjman during Preakness week 2016. (photo: Eric Kalet)

Horse Racing is called “The Sport of Kings”, but it is truly a sport for the people. In a time when diversity is so important, take a look around you the next time you are on the apron at a track.  I hope the sport of horse racing and its people embrace you like it has for my family and me. There’s some pretty neat stories around us, let’s take a journey together into some of them. In the coming months I have lined up some people with stories a lot more interesting than mine. I will include my own drawings and photos along with each of the stories. I can’t wait to bring them to you!

(featured image: Stephen Bardsley)

3 thoughts on “From the Apron with Stephen Bardsley: Introduction”

  1. Welcome Stephen….best of luck….stay ground and enjoy the beauty….been a fan a bettor since the late 70’s. Always remember this s a great sport with noble participants that sometimes we forget…. it is not all about betting.

  2. I am Stephen’s “Pop”, mentioned in his first column. What a joy to see his love of sport, , and racing in particular, passed on to the next generation.

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