Capturing Brilliance, Part 2

Once again I was honored to photograph the Kentucky Derby for Tops magazine, and I’m excited to share some of my favorite images of the weekend at historic Churchill Downs with you.

Last week I posted some some of my past Derby photos as a prelude to the 147th Run for the Roses held on the first Saturday of May.

This year signaled a slight return to normalcy after a worldwide pandemic.  Unlike the 2020 Derby with no fans, over 50,000 revelers attended this year’s somewhat but not really socially distanced Derby. As a physician, I bristled at the sight of so many people, many of them maskless and intoxicated, screaming and shouting in each other’s faces in close quarters. However, as a human being and a proud Kentuckian, I celebrated the sun shining bright on my old Kentucky home with thousands of my new best friends, relishing the triumphant return of an exuberant crowd for the most exciting two minutes in sports.

And unlike last year, there were also plenty of photographers shooting the spectacle. Even though media capacity was said to be about 60% normal, it was still pretty crowded. Luckily I was able to set up 3 remote cameras under the rail, and this year, I had some help. Mike Cyrus, Dick Arnspiger, and Morgan Hancock were all credentialed for Tops with me, and Mike and I shared the load of setting up, focusing and adjusting the remotes. He deserves a ton of credit for the incredible hard work he put in, as he always does! The following 4 pictures are all taken from our remotes, and his name should be on all of them too, as he deserves at least half of the credit (and maybe more because he gave up a spot shooting with his camera to be the trigger man for our 3 remotes).

Probably the shot of the weekend! Lead horses power down the straightaway in the 147th Running of the Kentucky Oaks, from R-L, Travel Column with Florent Geroux, Moraz with Flavien Prat, and Search Results with Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Here’s a photo of me setting up a remote, taken by Dick.



And here’s one I took of the exciting finish of the Oaks, with Irad Ortiz, Jr congratulating his mentor John Velazquez after a hard fought battle down the stretch. You can see Mike in the background pushing the remote triggers.

I tried to be a little more “artistic” in my approach this year…trying to get some shots that I haven’t gotten in the past.

Such a beautiful weekend to be at the track!

And Johnny Velazquez did it again, winning both the Kentucky Oaks and his 4th Kentucky Derby. And what masterful riding, coming from behind to win the Oaks on Malathaat, and leading wire-to-wire to win the Derby on longshot Medina Spirit. And Bob Baffert became the all-time winningest trainer in Kentucky Derby history with his 7th win.

Can’t wait for next year!!!

If you like what you see, you can check out my entire gallery here: https://drmikephotos.smugmug.com/Horses/Kentucky-Derby-weekend-2021/

Please visit my Facebook photography page, Instagram, and Twitter, where I post more regularly. And in case you missed it (if you have 37 minutes to spare and want to see the effort it takes to bring you these photos), check out my YouTube video sharing my experiences shooting the Derby on a Zoom presentation to the University of Kentucky Alumni Association on April 26, 2021.

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