New Jersey silversmith crafts trophy used in Hambletonian horse race

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MAPLEWOOD -

The 94th annual Hambletonian horse race will be held at the Meadowlands Race Track Saturday.

"The greatest day in harness racing” will offer up $1 million to the winner as well as the Hambletonian trophy – a trophy created by a silversmith from New Jersey.

Ubaldo Vitali was born in Italy as a fourth-generation silversmith. He moved to New Jersey in 1967 and quickly made a name for himself in the trade.

“I had only been here five years and I was called by Cartier to execute for them the Triple Crown trophy for the horse Secretariat,” Vitali says.

He says that it was a request that allowed him to combine his masterful skill and love for horses.

“I don't care how fast they run, even the greatest horses were colts and babies,” he says.

When the Hambletonian came to the Meadowlands in 1981, the organizers contacted Vitali to make the trophy – and he has done so every year since.

“They are all based on the model of the original,” he says. “And although it's a simple bowl with a horse head…it might not be my design or my creation, it is my execution and you still put all you have into it to make sure it is right.”

Racing trophies are not all that Vitali, who is in his mid-70s, known for. He has also been contacted to create original pieces for presidents, popes and members of royalty. He says that every piece takes several months to make.

“They have a meaning, there has to be a symbol. They are given for a purpose,” he says.

Hambletonian coverage begins Saturday at 4 p.m.

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