NEW YORK - Passions can take hold at a tender age. For Teresa Pete, it was a passion for horses. She remembers watching the Kentucky Derby as a young girl, marveling at the thoroughbreds’ graceful power, their riders spurring them toward the finish line with an intensity that bordered on fury. She had always dreamed of going to Churchill Downs, but never did she imagine that she might one day find herself in its winner’s circle.
Spectacular Bid, 1979 Kentucky Derby. Photograph by Jerry Cooke.
Her dream was realized years later when, as mistress of Maryland’s Hawksworth Farm, she acquired the yearling Spectacular Bid. He was purchased at one of Keeneland’s fall auctions – as opposed to a traditionally more prestigious summer sale – in what proved to be a remarkably good investment. He “was a special horse from the beginning,” Teresa says, “always doing what was asked of him.” From 1978 to 1980, the steely gray stallion won 26 of 30 races and set several track records, some of which still stand today. Spectacular Bid’s attempt at the Triple Crown began in 1979 with the Kentucky Derby, which he won by 2 ¾ lengths, followed by a triumph at Preakness with 5 ½ lengths, both with 19 year-old Ronnie Franklin at the reins. Victory at Belmont seemed all but assured, and with a teenage prodigy riding a horse from Keeneland’s “bargain basement,” as one reporter put it, the crowd was on their side. Then fate intervened. Like something out of Aesop’s Fables, Spectacular Bid stepped on a safety pin the morning of the race, its point firmly lodged in his hoof. Seemingly undeterred, the horse took his place at the starting gate and by the halfway mark he was in the lead. But the mile-and-a-half distance proved too much. He lost his position in the final moments, and with it the Triple Crown.
After two months of recuperating from his injury, Spectacular Bid returned to racing with the great Billy Shoemaker as jockey, earning him 1980’s Horse of the Year. Shoemaker called Spectacular Bid the best horse he had ever ridden, an opinion echoed by The Blood-Horse magazine, which ranked the stallion among the top ten U.S. thoroughbreds of the twentieth century. Eliciting comparisons to Man O’ War and Secretariat, Spectacular Bid continued to receive about 300 visitors per year until his death in 2003.
The Spectacular Bid Collection represents another passion of Teresa Pete’s that started at a young age. Like so many of her generation, Teresa grew up on a steady diet of films starring glamourous women like Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe, stars who dazzled both on-screen and off. They were decked in jewels, serious jewels, not the understated assemblages pulled together by today’s minimalist starlets and their sylists. What little girl, sitting saucer-eyed before To Catch a Thief, wouldn’t imagine herself being romanced by Cary Grant, or, while watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, picture herself being carried on a sea of admirers, all the while dripping in diamonds? “Talk to me Harry Winston, tell me all about it!” belted out an enraptured Lorelei Lee. Indeed, it was to Harry Winston that Teresa Pete paid a visit when, at the height of Spectacular Bid’s success, she decided it was time to acquire her own serious jewels.
The suite centers around sapphires, their color bringing to mind the blue of Hawksworth Farm’s silks. The pendant and earclips are classic Winston with generously sized pear-shaped Burmese and Ceylon sapphires framed by clusters of sparkling white diamonds. The ring features a 12.24-carat step-cut Burmese sapphire in a stunning shade of cobalt that, due to its slightly velvety texture, is truly enchanting. Completing the collection is a bracelet composed of spade-form links conforming beautifully to the wrist, proving that Winston pays just as much attention to design as it does to gemstones.
The Spectacular Bid Collection will be offered at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York on April 21st.