From the Derby to Keeneland, my favorite photographs in 2017

December 25, 2017 09:30am

Awesome Slew heads out to the track prior to the Commonwealth Stakes (G3).

Each spring in Lexington, hope blooms along with the dogwood and magnolia trees so abundant in Kentucky, and Blue Grass Stakes Day at Keeneland Racecourse is the pinnacle of it all.

The Keeneland paddock prior to the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1).

Corey Lanerie and Sailor’s Valentine win the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1).

While I have a personal preference for bays with flashy blazes rather than the popular grays, I admit that a gray horse can make a brilliant centerpiece in a photograph.

Practical Joke leads early in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), followed closely by Irap and Julien Leparoux.

In this shot, I like Keeneland’s iconic grandstand in the background and the jockeys and horses vying for position early in the race. Sadly, with the death of Blue Grass Stakes winner Irap in October, this photograph captures a bittersweet moment.

Click here to see more Blue Grass Stakes day photos.

Multiplier squints against the kickback as James Graham sits coolly early in the Illinois Derby (G3).

Multiplier and James Graham edge past Hedge Fund and Jose Valdivia, Jr. in the Illinois Derby (G3).

Like the hulking steel and iron of old Chicago, Hawthorne Race Course is blue collar and storied, with predominant views of industrial smokestacks. But there is beauty in the old bricks of the place, and you can’t beat the spectacular sight of the Sears Tower (never Willis to native Chicagoans) as the horses come down the stretch.

Click here to see more Illinois Derby day photos.

A woman’s pink coat is a bright spot among the gloom at Churchill Downs.

Kentucky Oaks day was as wet and dreary as they come, and the track never gave up its true rating of “soupy." Yet many hardcore attendees paid the weather no mind, including this woman perfectly poised upon a wet box seat railing, drink in hand, bright pink coat cheerily shielding her from the elements.

Julien Leparoux sponges off Bird Song after their win in the Alysheba Stakes (G2).

The damp steel gray coat of Bird Song almost perfectly mirrors the sky, and Leparoux’s use of a wet sponge in a downpour is a classic example of true horsemanship.

Javier Castellano after winning the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (G3).

Say what you will about stormy weather, storm clouds make an incredible backdrop for portraits!

Abel Tasman and Mike Smith win the 143rd Kentucky Oaks (G1).

Click here to see more Kentucky Oaks day photos.

Although the sun was shining, the walk over for the 143rd Kentucky Derby was over a wet, sticky track.

The weather was greatly improved for Kentucky Derby day but the track never fully recovered from the rains of Oaks day; it felt and looked like peanut butter slurry throughout the day.

Florida Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming is composed during the walkover.

During the downtime before the Kentucky Derby post parade I reviewed my images, and this was my favorite photo from the walkover. Little did I know that the subject would become the 143rd Kentucky Derby winner.

Patch, second in the Louisiana Derby (G2), during the walkover.

One couldn’t help but root for Patch, who had the unfortunate post position of number 20 and therefore was blind to the entire field at the break.

The Churchill Downs crowd awaits the post parade and the annual rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home”.

John Velazquez and Always Dreaming win the 143rd Kentucky Derby.

John Velazquez embraces wife Leona Velazquez after winning the 143rd Kentucky Derby aboard Always Dreaming.

I didn’t realize Leona Velazquez was barefoot until I reviewed all my photographs later in the evening. I love the passion between John and Leona, and Leona’s bare feet make the shot.

Click here to see more Kentucky Derby day photos.

Fort Ridge and Carlos Marquez, Jr. jump after winning an allowance race.

I ordinarily wouldn’t choose this photograph due to the photographer in the background, but I love Fort Ridge’s almost nonchalant ears-up jump!

Click here to see more Arlington Classic day photos.

Manitoulin is walked in the paddock prior to the Arlington Handicap (G3).

Manitoulin and Florent Geroux warm up in the post parade prior to the Arlington Handicap (G3).

I like this photograph of Florent Geroux; what a year he has had, with earnings of over $16 million. It's been a privilege to watch him rise in the ranks at Arlington Park over the years.

Ghost Hunter and Edwin Gonzalez win the Arlington Handicap (G3).

I like Edwin Gonzalez’s coy glance back at the field after crossing the finish line.

Click here to see more Million Preview Day photos.

United States Marines await the National Anthem.

What makes this photo for me is the young boy standing off to the side as he watches the Marines. Dramatic clouds and Arlington Park’s magnificent grandstand contribute to the mood of the photograph.

Champion jockey Frankie Dettori smiles aboard Afandem (FR) before finishing third in the Secretariat Stakes (G1).

Ryan Moore, jockey of Rain Goddess (IRE), watches the horses carefully as they go around the walking ring prior to the Beverly D. Stakes (G1).

Unlike any other jockey I’ve seen, Ryan Moore watched each Beverly D. entrant with careful scrutiny as they were walked around the Arlington Park walking ring. His face only brightened upon seeing his mount, Rain Goddess (IRE).

Dacita (CHI) and Irad Ortiz, Jr. win the Beverly D. Stakes (G1).

Beach Patrol is taken around the walking ring prior to the Arlington Million Stakes (G1).

Sometimes dark bay or brown horses appear flat in photographs, but the soft light here is just right for Beach Patrol.

Oak Brook (no. 1) and Santo Sanjur lead early in the Arlington Million Stakes (G1).

In this photo, the winner of this race, Beach Patrol, seems to be looking straight at the camera, and that along with his pricked ears and reaching forelegs evokes a sense of joy from the horse.

Click here to see more Arlington Million day photos.


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 Meet Heidi Carpenter


An equestrian since 1986, Heidi has loved horses for as long as she can remember. She fell in love with the sport and history of Thoroughbred racing as a young girl after reading about the great champions of yesteryear, including Man o' War, Lexington, Equipoise, and Citation.

Heidi has a great interest in the stories, connections and images abound in Thoroughbred racing. She also enjoys studying pedigrees and racing history.

Heidi lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband (who is also a racing fan) and four cats, and has her beloved horse, Limerick, boarded nearby. Registered as Amanda Bry, Limerick is a 1991-model OTTB mare that Heidi has had since 1996. Heidi also runs Racing Reviewer.

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