09.18.16: Spectators cheer


Spectators cheer horses down the stretch, opening day of the 2008 fall meet, Keeneland, Lexington, Ky. 


Technical information

Oct. 3, 2008,
1:41 p.m.

38°2'50” N,
84°36'26" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 40D

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L (35mm) 


1/500th second


There’s nothing better than spending a sunny day at the races.

It has beauty and color, with magnificent thoroughbreds in the paddock or on the track and jockeys wearing bright silks. It has excitement and drama, watching the horses fly toward the finish line in hopes that your horse arrives first. It has the thrill of victory (cashing a winning ticket) and the agony of defeat (throwing away a losing ticket). There’s food. There’s drink.

It’s all part of a recipe for a fun day.

My wife and I visit Keeneland, the historic race track in Lexington, Ky., twice a year to enjoy some racing. It’s also an opportunity for me to grab some new racing photos (the track is very camera friendly).

I usually try to get traditional racing action photos — close-ups of the horses battling down the stretch, etc. But I also try to get some photos in the paddock, where horses warm up and are saddled before the race, and some non-traditional photos.

This was an attempt at a non-traditional photo.

I shot this on opening day of Keeneland’s 2008 fall meet. Since Keeneland is only open for three weeks in April and three weeks in October, the crowds are large for opening day, weekend days and just about any day the horses are running. My goal was to get a photo of the horses running down the stretch with the crowd in the foreground, so I pre-focused on the track and — as the horses were about to reach that area of the stretch — held the camera above my head and fired off a series of shots.

I knew I would get the horses. What I couldn’t guarantee was what the crowd would be doing. But I got lucky. Everyone was facing the track and the one girl on the rail had her hand in the air as she cheered for her horse.

I’ve spent spring and fall days at Keeneland for years. My father took me when I was younger. I took him as he got older. And my wife and I go every spring and every fall, spending a day at the track and a few days with friends on each trip.

Keeneland 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.

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.