16 August 2008
A Bruco victory
by Tea Francesca Price
The air in the Piazza del Campo moments before il Palio began in August of 2008 was buzzing. After three false starts, the dark steeds between two ropes shifted their weight constantly, flanking and crowding each other. Behind them, in great contrast both in color and mannerism, was a grey horse standing stock-still. All mounts flicked their ears, pawing at the sand-packed track anxiously.
Without warning the rope drops and the Dragon contrada takes the lead, thundering down the track, the other bare-back jockeys hot in pursuit. The Bruco (Caterpillar), represented by a chestnut brown horse named Elisir and his young jockey, “Gingillo,” were far behind and hopes were not high.
But only in the way of this 90-second race did sudden developments affect the outcome.
Since the July Palio of 1955, after which there was a long period of 41 years with no victories, August 2008 marked the Bruco contrada’s fourth win.
A short collection of footage and images from the celebratory time after the Bruco's victory in August of 2008. Photo/Video Credit: Paolo Giachetti & friends | Produced: Tea Francesca Price
At the first turn of San Martino, a nasty turn known for dashing competitors, the Panther district slammed against the side, effectively setting them behind. Next, at the turn of Casato, the downward slope past La Torre del Mangia, the grey steed bearing the Dragon slipped, throwing off its jockey. The Goose (Oca) district now led, the Dragon’s horse pelting after it in (roughly) second place, but only for mere moments.
The small gap between the first and second place contrade was interrupted and closed by Elisir and Gingillo for Bruco; with masterful skill, the next turn at Casato was completed to perfection, putting the Bruco on the advantageous inside of the track.
Neck and neck, Bruco and Oca raced, the Dragon’s horse not far behind. By the third and final turn at San Martino, Bruco was in the lead, Gingillo glancing repeatedly over his shoulder while encouraging Elisir onwards.
Three cannon blasts signaling the abrupt end of the race were nearly drowned by the outpour of screams and bellows of elation. Smiling, laughing, crying, shouting and dumbstruck—the many faces of the Bruco crowded around Elisir, and lifting Gingillo on to their shoulders, the victors made their way to Il Duomo.
La Nobil Contrada del Bruco was the first contrada in history to employ a foreign jockey in July 1927.