PEB (Pierre Bellocq)Back
(French, b. 1926)
Peb was born in 1926 near Cognac, France, into a family that traveled the racing circuit from Bordeaux to Maisons-Laffitte. His father, Hillaire, was a trainer and later his brother, LouLou, was a jockey. Peb came to America in the mid 1950's at the request of John D. Schapiro, the owner of Laurel Race Course. Not a year later, he became associated with The Morning Telegraph, and subsequently its sister publication, The Daily Racing Form.
Peb been delighting American racing fans for over 50 years, making this an appropriate time to acknowledge the work of someone who never stops making this game a little more fun or interesting. In 2004 The Racing Form and the National Museum of Racing put together an exhibition entitled "Peb: The Art of Humor," that was on display for eighteen months, and The Form recently released a commemorative set of twenty-three new and original color sketches by Peb entitled "The Peb Star's of the Turf 50th Anniversary Collector's Portfolio."
With his imagination, his wit and his innate ability to bring out the true character of a person in his drawings, Peb could have gone on to be one of the great political cartoonist of his time, and, for a while, he was being pulled in that direction. For several years, Walter Annenberg owned both the Racing Form and the Philadelphia Inquirer and had Peb pulling double duty, doing political cartoons for the Inquirer and racing cartoons for the Form. His political cartoons were widely printed at home and abroad in publications such as the New York Times. In the early 1970s, Annenberg sold the Inquirer and the new owners of that paper wanted Peb to focus only on politics. Choosing between the Inquirer and the Form was an easy decision for him. Horseracing, not politics, was in his blood. "I was born into racing," said Peb. "My father was a jump jockey in the south of France and my grandfather was a trainer. His father was a breeder. I was among horses right from the start." So Peb devoted his remarkable career to the Daily Racing Form, much to the delight of the paper's devoted readers.
Over the years, there have been many classic cartoons. He says one of his favorites was the front-page cartoon for the 2004 Belmont Stakes, in which he linked Philadelphia legend Smarty Jones to Philadelphia legend Rocky Balboa. He has always liked to link racing to popular culture, one time conflating a horse, Coronado’s Quest, with then president, Bill Clinton.
Peb sometimes tackles sensitive issues in his work. In one cartoon, a horse chastises his jockey for excessive whipping. "You made your point, Mac," the horse says to the rider. Yet others are pure fun, such as one in which a man, showing off his field filled with incredibly long nosed horses, says, "I concentrate on photo-finish breeding." Sometimes he knows just what to say and draw, like the poignant cartoon that showed a saddened Foolish Pleasure in his stall the morning after the Ruffian match race, wearing a Ruffian pin.
Like most racing aficionados, he enjoys the aspects of the sport that bring out its beauty and its class. You'll often find Peb working on a sketch in the paddock at Saratoga, but it will be a rare day that he's at Aqueduct in the winter. "I have tried to bring my heritage and my background from France into this job," he says, "In France and in England, you still find an element of sport and beauty that is at the heart of the racing there. I try to depict that in my drawings. In America, the outlook is a little different. I try to export from my country the sophistication, the charm and the beauty of horse racing and translate it into racing in this country with the addition of humor. Sometimes people may find what I do to be esoteric because I still look at things through the eyes that fell in love with European racing." No such explanations are needed. The important part is that he makes people laugh (not to mention think) and has done so for over 50 years.
Rachel Alexandra at the Preakness Saloon