With 2019 almost over, it’s time to throw out that old calendar and get a new one. Why not buy a 2020 calendar that will make someone’s new year a little bit brighter? That’s the plan of one Saratoga Springs-based entrepreneur Dimitri Khazin, who owns SpiriChill Jewelry on Broadway, and his girlfriend, California-based artist Gabrielle Julia Benot. The couple recently created a 2020 Equine Art Calendar to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF), a national nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to severely injured or disabled jockeys.
“Dimitri came up with this idea to create something for the disabled jockeys that could be art-based and that could raise funds,” says Benot, who splits her time between San Diego, CA (not far from the famous Del Mar track) and Saratoga, where her vivid artwork can be seen on display at Spa Fine Art and The Adelphi Hotel. “We [wanted] to give back and do our part to contribute to a great cause.” Benot did all of the artwork for the 2020 Equine Art Calendar, which features 12 colorful horse racing images, while Khazin reached out to his racing connections in the Spa City to get some of the country’s top jockeys to pose for portraits that would pair with Benot’s artwork. Some of those big names include Javier Castellano, Joe Bravo and recent racing phenoms José and Irad Ortiz.
“The more people involved in the project, the more exciting it is,” says Khazin, who used to own XIII, a club in Saratoga that regularly hosted Epic Jokey Nights during the summer racing meets. “As I got to know people, I got to know the eternal workings [of horse racing], and I was introduced to Nancy LaSala, who’s [the] president of the PDJF fund.” With the support of PDJF and Surfside Stables, a new stable of horse owners that has sponsored the calendar, Benot and Khazin were able to turn their charitable calendar into a reality fairly quickly. Dimitri’s particularly passionate about the project, because he has some close friends who’ve worked as jockeys and some have even gotten injured. “They don’t have any source of income if they can’t ride, and they can’t support themselves,” says Khazin. “So 100 percent of the proceeds [from the calendar] will go to the PDJF.”
Khazin and Benot debuted the 2020 Equine Art Calendar back in November during the Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, CA. “So far we’ve had a great response, and people are buying them up,” says Benot. The calendar’s first printing of more than 300 copies has already sold out, and a second run is currently being produced and will be available online (at Benot and the PDJF’s websites) as well as, in the near future, at Impressions of Saratoga. (Horse racing fans in the Capital Region also have the chance to grab a copy as a raffle prize at saratoga living‘s first-ever “Saratoga Gives Back” party at Putnam Place on Thursday, December 12.)
As for their designs for a 2021 calendar, Khazin says that he and Benot already have plans for a follow-up, and he’s hoping to make it a popular item on both coasts. “Gabrielle has the clients on the West Coast, and I’m here in Saratoga,” says Khazin. “So we’re hoping to, in a sense, combine Saratoga Race Course and Del Mar.” Cheers to that New Year’s resolution!