Keeneland has rolled around again, a highlight of the racing calendar for myself and most racing fans. There is just nothing like an afternoon or a morning at this track. Few others compare.
Yet this meet turned out to have something new for me in store, after nearly 11 years of coming to the races here. I was fortunate enough to get to work for Coady Photography, my second foray into working at a track. It feels like living the dream, and I wanted to mostly let the images speak for themselves, of what living this dream looks like.
I had only stood near the finish or start of races on a small number of occasions, last summer at Saratoga, and if the adrenaline I felt as the field thundered by – their hooves incredibly loud even on the turf, in a way you never hear on the grandstand side making my heart beat faster and almost in rhythm as they raced by in the blink of an eye and the sheer heart-pounding anticipation of waiting for them to burst through the gate in the Blue Grass Stakes, so close I felt I almost could have touched them, the biggest race I ever stood at the start for and my first time experiencing one of Keeneland’s signature races this way…. I could see just from that surge of adrenaline I felt rush through me, what the horses must feel as they wait, the wide ribbon of track open before them and how it must surge through the jockeys too, at tenfold what I felt or greater….
No there aren’t words to describe fully how it felt. I will try, but then let the pictures speak more eloquently than I ever can about the experience…
Working for the track photographer is all that is Keeneland, all that draws me here time after time, in an even better more distilled version of the experience. It is the workouts along the rail, captured perfectly with the use of the professional camera for the first time; it is the look in the horse’s eyes in the paddock up close, the quiet before the rush down the stretch; it is meeting eyes with the jockeys as they get a leg up and pass by on the way to the tunnel, and the unspoken wish of a safe trip for all; it is the sunlight gleaming on each coat as the Blue Grass entrants emerge from the tunnel to begin their warm-up; it is the far-off look in Hard Not To Like’s eyes, gazing over my head, as she was sponged off and led from the stakes race winners’ circle on the turf course; it is watching Dance with Fate capture the Blue Grass with only a single rail and a camera lens between us, no crowd and the noise muted; it is only him I see, then and when he returns to acclaim from his connections… It is watching the sun set on Blue Grass Stakes day, over 12 hours at the track and still wanting more… And that is exactly why I say working for Coady is living the dream, it is doing what I love to do even on my own time, out of passion. And that is still extraordinary to me, as I work to wrap up my degree and work full-time in retail, that doing what you love is in reach. As my job in retail is a living but not a calling, that is why I run off to the track every chance I get, where time slips by unnoticed and fulfillment flows through me. It is my life, where I feel I was born to be.
And there is one other highlight as well. Working on the track, especially the track in my hometown, has made it possible to connect with more racing people and be more incorporated and recognized in their world. I have followed racing so long, that those connections among people who understand the passion for racing that drives me, is wonderful to begin to make. It will be even better when I can transition to working in racing full-time and find those connections come more and more readily.
(all photos credited to Coady Photography, and to be used only with express permission from Coady Photography)