04/16/2010 12:00AM

Editor's note: New logo reflects changing times

Email

After 116 years, we're switching horses.

Beginning today, the depiction of horse, rider, and trainer (presumably a trainer) in the center of the iconic Daily Racing Form logo has been replaced by a running horse.

The old logo looks like it could be Seabiscuit, Red Pollard, and Tom Smith. The new one looks like Zenyatta flying down the stretch. And that's the point. A new century and new technologies deserve a new mascot.

"The evolution of Daily Racing Form's iconic red banner logo reflects the marriage of our performance-based products and services with DRF's horse racing heritage," said John Hartig, CEO of Daily Racing Form. "The new logo stays true to the most trusted brand in horse racing but captures the speed, performance, and excitement of the sport."

Since the transition will affect a large number of online and printed products, you may see an old logo that will require a day or two longer to be updated.

The change in drawings did not come without some soul searching. Chris Donofry, the DRF designer who drew the new mascot, approached the project with a mixture of fear, reverence, and artistic grace. He actually submitted two candidates. The other one was a stretched out version of a running horse, whose front feet popped out of the right side of the logo center. Each horse had backers among the DRF braintrust, and there were only a few bruised egos when the "flyer" finally won the bakeoff.

The original logo and its mascots almost certainly date to 1894, when the newspaper was first published. They adorn the front page of the oldest copy of the Form in the possession of the Keeneland Library, from March 1896. Keeneland is the custodian of DRF's historic newspapers and is in the process of digitizing the collection with assistance from the University of Kentucky. ( )

Pierre Bellocq, or Peb, the longtime artist, former DRF art director, and full-time raconteur, described the original logo drawing as a piece of period clip art. But the drawing has always held special meaning for him.

"It was a very common type of picture," said Peb, who is 83 and whose father was a trainer in France. "I loved it because it looks like my father."

Over the years, the logo has been modified, and its original gaslight look has given way to smoother, cleaner features. In Peb's view, the border, which gives the logo its distinctive coat-of-arms appearance, was not well handled in the early years - too tall, too airy, and too flowery.

"It really was crooked, it was such an awful thing," he said.

The logo was flattened out a bit by the 1950s, when Peb joined the company from France, but some of the flowery scrollwork on the border was still there, and it bugged him.

"So I went to my boss, Sol Rosen, with something new," Peb said. "I made 15 new logos. Every time I would suggest one, Sol Rosen would take it to the owner, Walter Annenberg, who said, 'No way!' He was adamant to everything new."

Peb finally got his way, but not until the late 1980s.

"Sometime, I get off the subway, I see a Racing Form truck," he said. "And I see this terrible-looking truck, and I see the logo was all painted red. I have never seen this before, and I have an idea. I went to my drawing table and I colored the logo red, and Annenberg loved it!"

By 1991, the red color had been incorporated into the logo at most print sites, and the logo remained pretty much the same until 1998, the last time it received a major facelift.

In October of that year, Joe Zeff, a freelance artist who redesigned page one, added horizontal lines of shading to the drawing and shadows around the logo border - like polishing an old belt buckle, he said.

Now, the old belt buckle has a shiny new mascot. Still unmistakable, and that's the way we want to keep it.