The fall semester kept me busy, but here (better late than never) is a recap of the Keeneland fall 2014 race meet.  It was a glorious one.


The Keeneland meet started with anticipation and a joy at its return that never diminishes for me, no matter how many times I go back.  It’s just a fundamental part of living in Lexington, perhaps the most fundamental part of all.  There’s no denying its timeless appeal.

I was lucky enough to have been given a leave from my regular jobs to work for Coady Photography for the whole meet, a first for me.  I had been practically counting down the days until opening day on October 3rd rolled around.

It flew by all too fast, even while I savored the moments as I was in the midst of them.  It’s funny how even the days at Keeneland can seem to have a timeless quality, in the midst of quality horses and in the shadow of the iconic sycamore tree.  But then, I guess it’s really not that unusual.  So much of my working life to now has been one where time does not pass unheeded.  This is not a complaint, just an observation, and one that makes me all the more grateful for when I can do something like this that is my passion. There’s a freedom in that, in knowing beyond a doubt you have found your calling.

This was driven home even more by the tragic loss of Juan Saez, the incredibly talented apprentice jockey who had a poise beyond his years.  I could see it in the way he sat a horse, and rode, and people who are far more astute judges of a jockey’s skill had commented upon this as well.  I had certainly taken note of him, as I do of any new name among the jockey colony in the Keeneland programs, and photographed him as he went to post several times, and won two races.  That is when I noticed that poise he has.  It was only later, after he was gone, that I learned more: that D. Wayne Lukas had planned to put him in the Breeders’ Cup, because though Saez was an apprentice, he saw that much ability.  And I read how he had been encouraged to leave his native Panama so he could use his weight allowance in U.S. Rraces and break into the market here, and how he made a splash so fast, capturing the leading rider title at Ellis Park.  It was even more tragic he died due to his spill because his path and career trajectory were just beginning, and would have risen to greater and greater heights.  But there was one thing his loss drove home: we just have to grab every chance we can to do what we love and feel like we were made to do.  Life is just too brief and fragile to do anything less. I didn’t know Juan Saez but I didn’t have to.  I have felt just a fraction of what jockeys feel

He rode and he won and he made his mark in the sport he loved in the time he was given. And though you’d hope a person’s life is never cut that short, to live that way is to have truly lived, instead of merely existed.

Leparoux neared 2000 wins – had a plaque ready to congratulate him

rainy days gave way to warmth and sunniness

fall colors began to appear in red and gold splendor

Don’t Tell Sophia worked and she was a head-turner for sure, contained power

Rocco sat aboard her in complete stillness, in tune and just let her fly

like an extension of her

the Headless Horseman appeared on the last day, a day of warmth and lingering fall loveliness

all too soon the last race was over

and I walked back across the track to go the office,

my eyes on the dirt track and the paths trod across it,

visible in footprints and hoofprints

and tried not to be sad it was over

that was too incroguous to feel on this beautiful day

so I let it go

and waited for the winner of the last race of the meet

to return and stand in the winner’s circle

It was Santana Jr. and he was jubilant and full of extra gratitude, it seemed, for his win

and to see his joy mirrored my own at having been able to be here as much as I had

then I turned away as we packed up the office, pausing now and then to watch the sun fade into pink that spread across a wide swath of the sky

one more beautiful memory from this month here

and a sliver moon began to rise as the pink crept nearer and nearer the horizon

then the moon turned to red

and eventually faded from sight altogether

it was so dark not a star could be seen

but there was peace and solitude in Keeneland at night

with no crowd and no encroaching development to mar the horizon

and I soaked it in

along with the appreciation for the work I had done,

even though I still have much to learn, I do believe I made strides

and we the photo crew took a group picture

and lingered in each other’s company before going our separate ways

it was just a night to hold on to what Keeneland means to each of us and what we mean to each other

I’ll hold on to all that until we meet again, to take me through the remaining few months of school and the work I do to pay the bills, until I get back to the “work” I do to let my passion be my reality once more

I’ll miss these days though that’s true and the camaraderie we had, but knowing they’ll come around again will keep me going

and soon, with a graduation date now set at last, I  know it will be my full-time reality to work as a track photographer, and that will remain the dream come true it’s been since I first picked up a camera for Coady Photography in April this year

and yes, clearly, #ILoveKeeneland, the hashtag that the track recommended people use for this meet