Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Avenger of Waterloo

Their names were Henriette and Auguste.  They originally came from France, but came to the US through Montreal and apparently lived most of their adult lives here.  They were alive during World War II, and when the war was over they returned to France to visit their cousins (the lady who owned the estate sale company told me).

One of the photographs in their collection caught my eye, so I bought it and brought it home.  It's a small snapshot inside a clear plastic sleeve, with a caption written in tiny script on a separate scrap of paper: "Longchamp avec mes amis et mes gosses" -- "Longchamp with my friends and my kids" and the date 1950 Avril.    

The Hippodrome de Longchamp is a racetrack outside Paris.  I'm not sure who the people are in the photograph, or how they were related to Henriette and Auguste.  They do look like they're enjoying themselves.  Maybe their horse won?

I think I recognize someone else in the photo, though -- the big guy in the background.  

That's the statue of Gladiateur, the legendary French race horse, at Longchamp.  Gladiateur won many major races in France and also in England, earning him the nickname "the avenger of Waterloo."  

The website Thoroughbred Heritage Portraits notes:

Gladiateur was a particularly large foal, with, it was reported by French writers, superb symmetry. A later English turf writer, possibly after he had trounced British horses on their own turf to take the English Triple Crown, described him as "a rough-looking, angular horse, without any quality." It was agreed he was tall: "amongst his Derby competitors, he stood out like a giant in the midst of pigmies." A later English turf writer said he had "strength, grace, sweetness and courage." 

I like that: Strength, grace, sweetness and courage.  Statues of us may never enhance famous race courses, but we humans would do well to try to show those characteristics too.

Here's a photograph of Gladiateur:

You can read more about him here:

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