By Michelle Mowad
The Del Mar Racetrack is where the turf meets the surf, but it is now also where racing meets art. Renowned caricaturist Pierre "Peb" Bellocq was commissioned to create a 30-foot-long by 6-foot-high mural featuring 113 personalities including six horses from Del Mar's 70-year racing history.
The artist's single-piece canvas was bought in Belgium, shipped to San Francisco and then to New Jersey, where Peb lives and has his studio. After four months of research, Peb painted for 14 months. Upon completion, the canvas was shipped to Del Mar and stretched, backed and mounted by local framer Mitschke Custom Framing.
The longtime Flower Hill Promenade tenant moved to Del Rayo Village in Rancho Santa Fe in May 2008.
Mike Mitschke, owner of Mitschke's Custom Framing, said a team of four stretched, backed and mounted the canvas onto its frame and nine more people were needed to hoist and hang the giant piece onto the wall.
"We have done work for the Thoroughbred Club for many years," Mitschke said. "They contacted us to see if we could handle that job because of its usual size. It is because we had that type of experience and a good relation with them that the trusted us with this expensive canvas."
The mural was bought by the Thoroughbred Club and through a sponsorship by the Brown-Forman Corp., a spirits and wine company that makes Jack Daniels. The cost to commission the piece was not disclosed.
"It is a very expensive canvass. I put together a team of the best framers I knew for this project because it was a big deal to stretch a canvass that large and get it up onto the wall," Mitschke said.
"It is the story of Del Mar's history. It tells it in caricatures, and now it has become part of Del Mar's history," said Mac McBride, a spokesman for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
The colorful mural on the east wall of the entrance to the track's Clubhouse and Turf Club features caricatures of Hollywood notables, including Bing Crosby, Betty Grable, Bob Hope, Pat O'Brien, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The mural also includes famous jockeys Johnny Longden, Laffit Pincay Jr. and Bill Shoemaker and trainers such as father and son Farrell and Gary Jones, Buster Millerick and Tom Smith.
The Thoroughbred Club hopes the mural, which was hung July 10 for the start of the season on July 22, will rekindle memories from seasoned racegoers and pique the interest of younger racing enthusiasts.
Peb, a longtime caricaturist for Daily Racing Form, was first contacted about creating a mural for Del Mar several years ago following Thoroughbred President and General Manager Joe Harper's visit to Gallagher's steakhouse in New York. The steakhouse features a large mural created by Peb, who also created race inspired murals at Belmont Park in New York and Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
Del Mar's gift shop, Silks, is selling posters, laminated plaques and canvas prints of the mural during race season. After the season, art collectors can buy a replica of the mural at
- For more information about Mitschke's Custom Framing, visit