Peytona and Fashion: In Their Great Match Race

10| after Charles Severyn (American, 19/20th Century)

Peytona and Fashion: In Their Great Match Race

Starting bid: $10,000.00

Oil on canvas, 62" x 80"

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In the mid-19h century, horse racing was America's most popular sport. Fierce competition between jockeys, trainers, and breeders is a timeless feature of the sport, but the antebellum-era races were fueled by political and sectional tensions as well. The races were dominated by a concurrent debate between North and South over who was superior in equine breeding and training. The competition heated in the 1840s, when press and politicians encouraged a series of North/South match races that would capture the passions of the entire country. Promoters arranged for a match race at Union Course on Long Island pitting Southern champion Peytona, an Alabama-bred mare, against Fashion, the Northern "Queen of the Turf" for a staggering purse of $20,000. The race took place on May 13, 1845, after Peytona had traveled over 1,500 miles to compete against the eight-year-old Fashion. In this painting, the victorious six-year-old Peytona demonstrates her famously long stride in the foreground as Fashion trails behind. The center of the track is crowded with people, carriages, and wagons, but the scene does not begin to convey the true magnitude of the crowds - up to 100,000 attended - as reported in the rich news accounts that followed the event. Even though the image depicts the victorious Southern Peytona, the victory was short lived for the South, as two weeks later, during a rematch, Fashion beat Peytona-and Northern horses would go onto win most of the match races over the next several years. After the Civil War, however, horses from the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, the rolling hills of Virginia and Maryland's Hunt Country would fully establish the South's reputation for superior equine breeding.

The Great Match Race, as it was often referred to, was immortalized by the great lithography company Currier and Ives and remains one of the most sought after works from the company's extensive catalogue. The print was undoubtedly a prized possession in homes and bar-rooms all across the Southern States.

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