12/04/2009 1:00AM

Bronze of John Henry to be unveiled at Santa Anita


A life-sized bronze of the legendary John Henry, the first horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap twice, will be unveiled in the paddock gardens after the third race on opening day of the track's upcoming season, Dec. 26.

The unveiling is part of a busy opening day at Santa Anita that also features the final public appearance of Zenyatta, two Grade 1 stakes races - the Malibu and the La Brea - and the popular wall-calendar giveaway.

The bronze was created by Nina Kaiser, who worked on the project for more than two years after being commissioned by both Santa Anita and the Oak Tree Racing Association. Kaiser also did the bronzes of jockeys Chris McCarron and Laffit Pincay Jr. that are in the east end of Santa Anita's paddock gardens.

The bronze stands at John Henry's height, 15-2 hands, and weighs approximately the same 1,000 pounds he did during his racing career. John Henry was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990. He retired to the Kentucky Horse Park, where he died two years ago.

Ron McAnally, who trained John Henry to Horse of the Year titles in 1981 and 1984, will pull the sheet that unveils the statue.

"Without a doubt, John Henry was one of the most popular horses to ever compete here at Santa Anita, and he probably meant more to our sport and to our business than any other horse you can think of in the 1980s," said Ron Charles, the president of Santa Anita. "John Henry keynoted a tremendous run of success here at Santa Anita and, like Seabiscuit, we are proud to be able to present his likeness for our fans to enjoy for generations to come."