Eskimo Kisses, anyone? Following the Alabama winner

After her impressive come-from-behind win in Saturday's Grade 1 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies -- as a 9-1 longshot at Saratoga, no less -- here's a look at Eskimo Kisses' week at the Spa. how she got to that spot and also follow up with her this morning at the barn of trainer Kenny McPeek.

 

As I was photographing the contenders for the Union Avenue Stakes race in the paddock on Thursday, I noticed a big chestnut filly being schooled. Her demeanor and commanding presence drew me in, and I started watching her closer.

 

Exercise rider Mimi Davis guided the Kenny McPeek trainee into the paddock and gave her a brief shower in front of the Big Red Spring pavilion 

 

As Mimi walked Eskimo Kisses past flower beds and the statue of Sea Hero, the filly took frequent stops to survey the surroundings and the pre-race activity as other horses got saddled for the upcoming race

 

Eskimo Kisses found more of a comfort zone in the paddock as I had to leave to follow the race. Based on the success in her own race two days later, this experience was a perfect example for the value of paddock schooling to prepare race horses for the increased attention and buzz on big race days.

 

And ready she was on race day, sweeping the whole field starting in the far turn, leading her to a commanding victory by 6 ½ lengths under jockey Jose Ortiz, and crossing the finish line covered in dirt from an early trailing position.

 

Jose Ortiz gave an emphatic fist pump past the wire.

 

 

After her appearance in the winner’s circle, Eskimo Kisses received a quick shower to clean off the track dirt and then walked back to her barn.

I followed up with her Sunday as she curiously peeked into the morning sun out of her stall at the McPeek barn.

 

McPeek (on the right with the back to the camera) checked up on her as well:

 

As she was being walked in the barn area, Eskimo Kisses clearly was the attraction of the morning.

 

And, befitting of a cGrade 1 winner, she received mints and affection from her exercise rider Danny Ramsey and her groom

Here is your freshly minted winner of the Alabama Stakes, relaxing in her stall at the McPeek barn, and enjoying the attention that champions receive:

 


Meet Konrad Weeber

In his photography, Konrad captures the beauty of equine sports. His photos take the viewers behind the scenes of horse racing and allow them to experience the daily passion at backstretches, training tracks and horse barns. Horse people are motivated by their seemingly limitless dedication to the animals. Konrad aims to capture this in his photos that often explore the changing light between dawn and sunrise. His goal is to photograph the poetry in motion of horses in flight, the intersection of sunlight and athleticism, and the caring passion of riders and caretakers for the equines in their charge.

Konrad is a lifelong photographer who started with black and white photography of modern dance performances for a journal in his hometown of Vienna, Austria. He has followed his passion for photography as he travelled the world and transitioned to travel, outdoors and sports photography. After settling in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 2015, he started to explore horse racing photography and picked up horseback riding himself to develop a better appreciation for and connection with horses. He now specializes in equine photography as a freelance photographer.

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