03.12.17: Down the stretch


Kapanga leading down the stretch, fourth race, Keeneland’s 2009 fall opening day, Lexington, Ky. 


Technical information

Oct. 9, 2009,
3:47 p.m.

38°2’51” N,
84°36'28" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EF 100-400mm f/3.5-4.5L (100mm)


1/1600th second


I really enjoy photographing horse racing. 

We visit Keeneland — the historic race trace in Lexington, Ky. — for the spring meet in April and the fall meet in October. It's fun to watch the horses, win (or lose) a little money and enjoy being out with the crowd. We hang around the rail and I grab some shots of horses as they come down the stretch. 

Often a race will come down to two or three horses battling to the finish line. That can make for a nice photo. At times one horse will run away from the field for an easy win and a rather boring photo. 

But occasionally there will be a race with a tight field of horses all in contention in the stretch. That’s what happened in this photo of the finish to the fourth race on Keeneland’s fall opening day in October 2009.

The field had remained tight from the start of the mile and a sixteenth allowance race, with long shot Suz Slew, under jockey Rajiv Maragh (4, in yellow on the rail), leading from the break until late in the stretch. That’s when Kapanga (4), under Garrett Gomez, surged to the lead and the win. Kapanga was last in the nine-horse field until mid-stretch before moving to the outside and blowing past the other eight horses. Suz Slew held on for second and Striking Dancer (5), under Kent Desormeaux, took third.

We always look forward to our semiannual trips to Keeneland and Lexington. The days at the historic track are always fun, no matter the weather — which can be unpredictable in April and October. We’ve watched races on sunny 80-degree days, we’ve watched races on windy 30-degree days with snow flurries, and we’ve watched races in just about every weather condition in between.

The track has hosted races since it opened in 1936. It’s one of the nation’s most “traditional” race tracks, retaining the same look and feel through the years while still adopting new technologies (even though it was the last race track in North America to broadcast race calls over a public-address system, adopting that practice in 1997). Keeneland was used for most of the racing scenes in the 2003 movie Seabiscuit because its appearance has changed little in decades. Keeneland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In 2009, Keeneland was ranked as the number one track in America by the Horseplayers Association of North America.

But the visits to Lexington also provide an opportunity to see friends and family in the area. That’s always a winner.

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.