SARATOGA SPRINGS — Renowned Eclipse Award-winning cartoonist Pierre “Peb” Bellocq and the late Eclipse Award-winning writer William Leggett have been selected to the National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor.
Bellocq, 94, was born in France in 1926. At age 19, the French racing journal France Courses gave him national exposure by publishing one of his cartoons of a jockey. Bellocq signed the drawing as “Peb,” a signature that became his lifelong moniker.
By 1954, Bellocq’s work had achieved international acclaim and he was contracted by Laurel Park owner John D. Schapiro to do drawings for the prestigious Washington, D.C. International Stakes. Bellocq decided to relocate to the United States and in 1955 accepted an offer to work as the staff cartoonist for the Morning Telegraph and its sister paper, the Daily Racing Form, a job he held until December 2008. Early in this career, Bellocq also produced political cartoons for the Philadelphia Enquirer while simultaneously working for the Form. Bellocq eventually transitioned his primary focus to thoroughbred racing.
“My father was a jump jockey in the south of France and my grandfather was a trainer. His father was a breeder. I was among horses right from the start,” Bellocq said.
Along with his work for the Form, Bellocq has been commissioned by numerous racetracks to produce vibrant murals capturing the flavor of the sport. His large-scale cartoon collages became fixtures at tracks such as Churchill Downs, Del Mar, Arlington, Oaklawn, Aqueduct, and The Meadowlands.
Bellocq has also produced several books; his first, published in 1957, consisted of 150 cartoons and was titled “Peb’s Equine Comedy.” Bellocq also illustrated the 1969 Joe Hirsch book “A Treasury of Questions and Answers from the Morning Telegraph and Daily Racing Form.” In 2004, he created drawings for author Ed Hotaling’s book on Hall of Fame jockey Jimmy Winkfield, whom Bellocq had known personally when the rider was living and racing in his hometown of Maisons-Laffitte.
Bellocq has received numerous awards for his work, which has been exhibited extensively. In 1980, he received an Eclipse Award for his contributions to racing and he was presented The Jockey Club Medal in 2016. Bellocq also received the National Cartoonists Society 1991 Sports Cartoon Award and their 1999 Newspaper Illustration Award. In 1998, the Daniel Wildenstein Art Gallery in New York held an exhibition of Bellocq’s work titled The Racing World in Sketch and Caricature. From July 2004 through December 2005, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame put on a special exhibition of his works titled Peb: The Art of Humor, which celebrated his 50th anniversary of horse racing artwork in the United States.
Leggett, who was born in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1931, became one of racing’s most celebrated and respected writers during his 30-year career at Sports Illustrated. After graduating from Saratoga Springs High School, Leggett earned a degree from Seton Hall University. He then had a brief stint in the Army before being hired by Sports Illustrated as a researcher and football writer.
It didn’t take long for Leggett to get expanded assignments, as his role increased to also include covering baseball, college and professional basketball, and both thoroughbred and harness racing. Leggett also covered the Olympics, including the U.S. hockey team’s 1960 upset of the Soviet Union. He was eventually named Turf Editor for Sports Illustrated.
Leggett, who spent time as president of both the National Turf Writers Association and the New York Turf Writers Association, won an Eclipse Award for his racing writing in 1979. After retiring from Sports Illustrated in 1986, Leggett continued his coverage of the sport as the New York correspondent for Thoroughbred Times and as a columnist for The Saratogian’s racing supplement, The Pink Sheet.
“He had a tremendous knowledge of thoroughbred racing,” said the late Whitney Tower, who worked with Leggett at Sports Illustrated for nearly 20 years. “He was an exceptional man, a great talent, and he contributed a lot to the success of Sports Illustrated. He knew his way around. The trainers respected him. He was very popular.”
In 1993, Leggett was one of the eight inaugural members of the Saratoga Springs Sports Hall of Fame. He died in 1996 in New York City at the age of 64.
Previous selections to the Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor are Steven Crist (2010), Bill Nack (2010), Red Smith (2010), Charles Hatton (2010), Dr. Russ Harris (2011), Joe Palmer (2011), Jay Hovdey (2012), Whitney Tower (2012), Andrew Beyer (2013), Kent Hollingsworth (2013), George F. T. Ryall (2013), Jennie Rees (2014), Jim Murray (2014), Steve Haskin (2015), Raleigh Burroughs (2015), Maryjean Wall (2016), Jim McKay (2016), Michael Veitch (2017), Jack Whitaker (2017), Barney Nagler (2017), Joe Burnham (2018), Tom Hammond (2018), Charlsie Cantey (2019), and Billy Reed (2019).
The National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor was established in 2010 to recognize individuals whose careers have been dedicated to, or substantially involved in, writing about thoroughbred racing (non-fiction), and who distinguished themselves as journalists. The criteria has since been expanded to allow the inclusion of other forms of media.
Often referred to as the dean of thoroughbred racing writers, Hirsch won both the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Writing and the Lord Derby Award in London from the Horserace Writers and Reporters Association of Great Britain. He also received the Eclipse Award of Merit (1993), the Big Sport of Turfdom Award (1983), The Jockey Club Medal (1989), and was designated as the honored guest at the 1994 Thoroughbred Club of America’s testimonial dinner. The annual Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park is named in his honor. Hirsch was also a former chairman of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. He died in 2009.
The Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor Committee is comprised of Edward L. Bowen (chairman), author of more than 20 books on thoroughbred racing; Bob Curran, retired Jockey Club vice president of corporate communications; Ken Grayson, National Museum of Racing trustee; Jane Goldstein, retired turf publicist; Steve Haskin, Secretariat.com; G. D. Hieronymus, retired Keeneland Director of Broadcast Services; and Dan Smith, senior media coordinator of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
For more information about the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, including upcoming events, please visit www.racingmuseum.org or call (518) 584-0400.