Photo agency says it did not alter images of Hot Rod Charlie

Photo agency says it did not alter images of Hot Rod Charlie

The agency that provided images that appeared to show Hot Rod Charlie racing with toe grabs Saturday in the Grade 2 Lukas Classic stood by the accuracy of its photos, refuting questions about whether they were doctored.

“The images on the server are in no way altered or manipulated,” Eclipse Sportswire owner and managing editor Scott Serio said Wednesday in a written statement. “Eclipse Sportswire takes the integrity of our images seriously and adheres to high ethical standards of photojournalism in all work.”

RELATED: Did Hot Rod Charlie violate shoe rule in win?

Serio issued the statement in response to trainer Doug O’Neill’s reaction to a story posted Tuesday at Horse Racing Nation about questions raised by trainer Eric Reed, whose colt Rich Strike lost the Lukas Classic to Hot Rod Charlie by a head. Digital images taken by Eclipse photographers and others appeared to show Hot Rod Charlie wearing toe grabs, which are illegal under Kentucky and federal regulations. (Read that story here.)

In a Facebook post Tuesday evening, O’Neill wrote, "After seeing the photo, I don't blame Eric Reed for questioning Charlie's shoes. My only thought is that the photo is a weird reflection or is a result of being altered.”

“The accusation by Doug O’Neill that the images are altered is unfounded and untrue,” Serio’s statement said. “Attacks on the reputation of Eclipse Sportswire or any of our independently contracted photographers will not be tolerated. Eclipse Sportswire stands by the integrity of the images and the photographers who captured them.”

The images posted were gleaned from the Eclipse Sportswire photo portal, to which HRN subscribes. According to HRN managing editor Ron Flatter, the unedited shots were examined only after the early photos from other sources were brought to light by a third-party trainer who did not have a horse in the Lukas Classic. Other than sizing the photos to fit the framework of the website and enlarging and emphasizing the area showing the hooves and horseshoes, Flatter said HRN made no changes to the photos.

Serio went on to say Eclipse was not weighing in on whether there was any rules violation.

“Eclipse Sportswire makes no statement regarding allegations of an equipment violation or other allegations regarding the results of the Lukas Classic or any race photographed by Eclipse Sportswire photographers,” the agency said. “This is a statement about the integrity and content of our images.”

A Kentucky Horse Racing Commission spokesperson said Wednesday morning in an email to HRN, “I can confirm that the KHRC is investigating the matter as they do any potential violation that is brought to their attention.

Following was the full statement sent by Eclipse Sportswire:

“On Tuesday, October 4th, Horse Racing Nation released a story stating that trainer Eric Reed was considering the filing of a complaint regarding the outcome of the Lukas Classic. The story states that Reed contacted the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and shared photographs from the race. Reed suggested to the commission that Hot Rod Charlie, trained by Doug O’Neill, should be disqualified for illegal equipment. In response, Doug O’Neill posted on Twitter and Facebook, ‘After seeing the photo, I don’t blame Eric Reed for questioning Charlie’s shoes. My only thought is that the photo is a weird reflection or is a result of it (the photograph) being altered.’

“The images shared by Horse Racing Nation with the story were two images taken by Eclipse Sportswire photographers. As a result of O’Neill’s statement, numerous fans and followers took up the argument the photo was altered, doctored or manipulated to discredit Hot Rod Charlie. Images taken by the official track photographer for Churchill Downs, Coady Photography, also show the extended left hoof and the shoe in question. Other photographers captured images of the race, including an image captured by Jamie Newell, shooting for EBN, of the horse just past the finish line. Her image shows the same questioned equipment on a front and rear hoof.

“The Eclipse Sportswire images used in the Horse Racing Nation story were captured minutes after the start of the race (post time 5:26 p.m.), were emailed to editors at 6:15 p.m. and were uploaded to Eclipse Sportswire servers shortly afterwards. The images on the server are in no way altered or manipulated. Eclipse Sportswire takes the integrity of our images seriously and adheres to high ethical standards of photojournalism in all work. The accusation by Doug O’Neill that the images are altered is unfounded and untrue. Attacks on the reputation of Eclipse Sportswire or any of our independently contracted photographers will not be tolerated. Eclipse Sportswire stands by the integrity of the images and the photographers who captured them.

“Eclipse Sportswire makes no statement regarding allegations of an equipment violation or other allegations regarding the results of the Lukas Classic or any race photographed by Eclipse Sportswire photographers. This is a statement about the integrity and content of our images.”

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