01.21.18: Concentration

Jockey Joseph Sanchez concentrates as he guides R S Express toward a win at Beulah Park near Columbus, Ohio. 

PHOTO OF THE WEEK ARCHIVES

Technical information

Date/time:
Oct. 15, 2005,
5:04 p.m.

Location
39°53’18” N,
83°6'2" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Camera: 
Canon EOS 20D

Lens: 
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L 

Aperture: 
f/4.5

Shutter: 
1/5000th second

ISO: 
400

When Beulah Park was still operating as a race track in Grove City, Ohio, I’d drive down to the track every week or so and take photos of a few races. I’d stand at the rail to get shots of horses battling down the stretch, then walk to the paddock area to get some “atmosphere” photos — horses warming up, trainers saddling their horse, jockeys mounting, etc. — before hitting the betting window and returning to the rail for the next race.

This photo was taken during an October 2005 visit to the track. The crowd was small — as usual — on this sunny afternoon at the track that seldom drew very many spectators in its final years. I could stand along the rail at any spot I wanted, so I decided to try to frame a tight shot of a jockey riding the leader past the tote board along the home stretch.

I focused on jockey Joseph Sanchez as he guided R S Express down the stretch and I tracked the fast-moving pair until they were right in front of me with the tote board in the background. Then I fired off a burst of shots as they sped past.

I liked how this photograph shows the concentration of the jockey, the dirt covering his front side and the colorful silks. It’s different from many of my other horse racing photos that focus as much on the horse as on the jockey, but it’s that difference that makes this photo stand out when displayed with the others.

Sanchez was a successful jockey. This victory on R S Express was one of 294 winners he rode in 2,964 career starts, according to data compiled by Equibase, thoroughbred racing’s database of racing information and statistics. Sanchez hasn’t ridden since 2015, according to Equibase.

As I’ve written many times, I was disappointed in the demise of Beulah Park. It was a nice track that had a long history. Beulah Park was the first thoroughbred racing track in Ohio when it opened in 1923, but the facility had fallen into disrepair in recent years as the owners lobbied with the state to approve the use of video slot machines and other similar devices to provide a non-racing revenue stream. The plan was to create “racinos,” sites that would offer both live racing and other gambling.

In 2010, Penn National Gaming, a leading operator of casinos and racetracks, bought Beulah Park, creating expectations that the company would pump money into improving the facility and increase purses to attract better horses to the track. But that wasn’t the company’s intent. In 2011 Penn National announced that it was closing Beulah Park to eliminate competition for a new casino the company was building in Columbus. It transferred the racing license to a new facility near Youngstown.

And the countdown began for the death of Beulah Park. The final racing card at the track was on May 3, 2014. More than 5,000 people showed up to say goodbye to the track.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.