1993 29¢ Steeplechase
· Issued at the 119th running of the Kentucky Derby
· From the second block of four stamps to honor horses
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Set: Sporting Horses
First Day of Issue: May 1, 1993
First Day City: Louisville, Kentucky
Quantity Issued: 40,000,000
Printed by: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
Format: Panes of 40 from plates of 160
Perforations: 11.1 x 11.5
Color: Multicolor with black intaglio
Why the stamp was issued: As a follow-up to the 1985 Horses block (US #2155-58), the Sporting Horses were issued at the 119th annual Kentucky Derby.
About the stamp design: Engraved by Yves Baril, the stamp features artwork from first-time US stamp designer Michael Dudash (who had previously worked on stamps for the UN). While the USPS chose not to specially feature famous horses in this set, the illustrations were based on photos from actual events.
Dudash didn’t identify the specific sources for his illustration on the steeplechase stamp, simply saying it was it was a “conglomeration, created out of many, many sources.”
Special design details: There was a mistake in the selvage markings for the Sporting Horses sheet. The phrase “Use Correct Zip Code,” is incorrect – ZIP should be in all capital letters as its an acronym for “Zoning Improvement Plan.” There was also at least one pane of 40 stamps found without the black intaglio printing for “29¢” and “USA.”
First Day City: Issued at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Kentucky, during the 119th annual running of the Kentucky Derby.
About the Sports Horses Stamps: The USPS referred to the block of four as “Horses II,” considering them a follow-up to the 1985 Horses block. Those weren’t the first US stamps to picture horses. A post horse and rider was included in the 1869 Pictorial Series (US #113). However, only two other stamps prior to this had pictured equestrian sports – a 1974 10 stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the Kentucky Derby (US #1528) and a 1979 15¢ stamp showing an Olympic horse race (US #1794).
History the stamp represents:
Steeplechase, a cross country race in which horses hurdle obstacles, originated as early as 3 B.C. However, its name comes from impromptu races by fox hunters in 18th century Ireland in which church steeples served as finishing landmarks. According to legend, two men decided to test their horses speed after a fox hunt. The steeple of the church was the only visible landmark so they agreed to “race to yon steeple.”
A favorite pastime among British cavalry officers, the sport flourished in England, and eventually gained popularity in France as well. The first steeplechase in the U.S. was held at Belmont Park, New York, in 1899. The average course, which is 2-4.5 miles and has obstacles such as fences, brooks, ditches and hedges, requires speed, agility, and endurance.
Hurdle racing, which is generally used in preparation for steeplechasing, differs in that its hurdles are lower and can easily be moved. With a less hazardous course, hurdle racing allows racers to maintain a faster pace. Like steeplechasing, it is popular throughout Europe and the U.S.
Although most race horses are Thoroughbreds – a horse originating from crossing an Arabian stallion with an English mare – most steeplechasers are “half-breds.” Mature horses are generally used for this type of race because of the stamina required.