Picture perfect: Another flutter on Arkle

Painting evokes memories of famous racehorse on eve of Cheltenham Festival

It is 50 years since Arkle won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1964, the first of three consecutive wins. The champion steeplechaser, ridden by jockey Pat Taaffe, was in the mid-1960's, the world's most famous racehorse. The bay gelding, bred by Mary Baker at Ballymacoll Stud, Co Meath was owned by Anne, Duchess of Westminster and trained by Tom Dreaper.

Arkle's career ended following an injury sustained in the 1966 King George VI Chase at Kempton Park and the horse was put down, aged 13, in 1970. Arkle's skeleton is on permanent display at the Irish National Stud's museum in Co Kildare. In 2010, Arkle's racing saddle, used by Pat Taaffe for all his victories, was bought for £12,925 (€15,140) by an anonymous Irish bidder at a sale in London of sporting memorabilia hosted by Graham Budd Auctions.

Later this month, a painting titled Arkle Racing, Marlborough Street, Dublin by John Doherty will go under the hammer in de Veres' art auction in Dublin. But the 1981 acrylic-on-canvas, measuring 100cm by 148.5cm, depicts not the horse but rather a betting shop named in his honour.

The picture, estimated at €25,000-€35,000 shows a man reading the racing results posted in the window of the Arkle bookmakers shop in Marlborough Street, Dublin. The artist, John Doherty, was born in Kilkenny in 1949 and now lives and works in west Cork after spending five years in Sydney. Many of his best-known paintings depict small-town Ireland and show abandoned corner shops, rusting petrol pumps and landmark shop fronts.


There are 120 lots in the sale and, according to auctioneer Rory Guthrie, renewed strength in the art market had "brought a fresh supply of quality work". He said "all last year there were plenty of buyers for works at the top end of the market but the problem was the lack of them available". But, he added "where before vendors may have felt reluctant to sell, now we are seeing the energy in the market enticing the very best again".

Other highlights in the sale include Two Sisters by Jack B Yeats and The Palladian Bridge, Wilton by Sir John Lavery, both estimated at €50,000-€70,000. There's also work by Roderic O'Conor, Gerard Dillon, Colin Middleton, Tony O'Malley, Louis le Brocquy and Camille Souter among others.

Arkle Racing is among 120 lots in the auction which takes place in Bewley's Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 on Tuesday, March 25th at 6pm. Viewing begins on Sunday March 23rd. deveres.ie