What goes into making the amazing VRC trophies?

2 March 2023 Written by VRC

The most straightforward definition of a sports trophy is that it serves as a reminder of a triumph for a winner, or a reward for an exceptional performance. It is a tangible and sentimental memento of sacrifice, courage and excellence. This is true for connections of a race at Flemington, where they are awarded a stunning piece of history, created by artisans.

Peter Gertler, gold and silversmith has been working with the VRC for more than 20 years, producing many of the special trophies that now take pride of place on owners, trainers and jockeys mantlepieces. This creative silversmith creates about 20 trophies just across the spring carnival alone, not to mention all of the other significant race days throughout the year. He is passionate about his work, which has an elegant simplicity.

Alongside him in his workshop is Glenn, who has worked with him for more than 30 years, and his wife, Marion. This small team collaborates with a larger group of creatives, sometimes up to eight others, who all work together to create a memorable souvenir that people will treasure for many years to come.

“Creating a trophy is a specialised profession. I work closely with the VRC to create a design that realises their vision. I will hand sketch or use photographs as my inspiration,” he said.

“For each trophy, we try to incorporate something that is characteristic of the sponsor or race. We have four different styles of trophies – they might be a bowl or a cup. The Black Caviar trophy has been the same for a number of years now and is only used for that race. It is something that becomes a tradition that is very unique to that particular event.”

When designing the Black Caviar Lightning trophy, Gertler decided to incorporate the black in it, making it immediately distinctive and unique to that race, as does the small cameo of the black horse featured on it.

Flemington Racing Spectacular trophies L to R : TAB Australian Cup, Australian Guineas, Yulong Stud Newmarket Handicap

Other trophies that come out of Gertler’s workshop have an element of shimmer to them, something that he says is a demonstration of individual artisan approach.

“We want to show our craftsmanship and that people have actually made this. It’s not just a machine producing elements and putting it all together, but shows the control of the hammer on the metal. With everything we do, there’s pride put into it. And you want that to be something that people are proud to receive as well.”

Wood turners, engravers and electroplaters are just some of the pieces of the puzzle that brings one trophy to life. These creatives are all artisans who have honed their skills over many years, and it is something that Gertler hopes is not lost. “We hope that new generations come through and still want to learn the art of what we do, as it is such a special trade.”

Ultimately though, the greatest satisfaction of Gertler’s profession is seeing the connections of a race receive their trophies.

“My biggest reward is seeing the faces of the people who receive their trophies on race day. I still enjoy that moment so much, as we have made something for them that is now a tangible reminder of a wonderful achievement, or a great day for them.”