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FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2007

Dewey Deason aboard one of Seabiscuit’s sons, Sea Bees, after winning a 1949 race at Suffolk Downs in Boston.
Courtesy photo
Dewey Deason aboard one of Seabiscuit’s sons, Sea Bees, after winning a 1949 race at Suffolk Downs in Boston.

Man’s ride is ticket to Seabiscuit dedication
Deason to attend unveiling of horse’s statue in California

By Ronnie Thomas · 340-2438

Dewey Deason’s brief career as a jockey during the late 1940s ended when he outgrew the saddle. But at 75, the Somerville man is riding high.

He flies Friday morning to Willits, Calif., where he’ll attend a private dedication and unveiling Saturday of a life-sized bronze sculpture of the legendary thoroughbred race horse, Seabiscuit, at Ridgewood Ranch, the horse’s historic home and final resting place. The public viewing is June 30.

During the summer of 1949 as he grew taller and heavier, Deason got the ride of his life aboard one of Seabiscuit’s sons, Sea Bees.

That ride is his ticket to Ridgewood Ranch.

“I rode Sea Bees to three or four wins on the New England circuit that included Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island,” Deason said. “That was during the time I also met Red Pollard, who rode Seabiscuit.”

Winning race

Deason will fly into San Francisco and drive 140 miles north to Willits, carrying a photo of him aboard Sea Bees snapped in June 1949, after winning a race at Suffolk Downs in Boston.

“It will be quite a thrill, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to meeting Laura Hillenbrand.”

Hillenbrand is the New York Times best-selling author of “Seabiscuit, An American Legend,” published in 2001.

The movie was based on the book.

Seabiscuit, who became a symbol of hope to many Americans during the Great Depression, foaled May 23, 1933, and died May 17, 1947.

Deason said Saturday’s event is a dedication of a replica Seabiscuit statue that stood at the ranch before being moved to Binglin Stable in Moorpark, Calif., more than 55 years ago. Charles Howard’s family sold the property after his death.

About a decade ago, the family donated the statue to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratogo Springs, N.Y.

Famed western artist and sculptor Hughlette “Tex” Wheeler cast two statues of Seabiscuit during 1940-41. In February 1941, the bay colt, named “Horse of the Year” in 1938 after beating War Admiral in a race dubbed “The Match of the Century,” helped unveil the second statue at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., where it remains.

According to a letter Deason got from the foundation with his special invitation, Salt Lake City and San Francisco Bay area workers crafted a meticulous replica of the statue and its granite pedestal from a rubber and fiberglass mold made from the original at Saratoga Springs in December.

They completed the work during the spring and trucked it to Willits, along the way passing the racing sites of some of Seabiscuit’s greatest triumphs.

Celebrity party

When former jockey Dewy Deason of Somerville attends the unveiling of a life-size statute of the famous racehorse Seabiscuit in California, he will be among guests including:

  • Janice Howard, great-granddaughter of former Seabiscuit and Ridgewood Ranch owner Charles S. Howard.

  • Actor Jeff Bridges, who portrayed Howard in the movie, “Seabiscuit.”

  • Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, who played the role of Charley Kurtsinger, War Admiral’s jockey, in the movie.

  • Film director Gary Ross.

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