Photographing a thoroughbred racehorse comes with some challenges. My experience was mostly a logistical challenge. The first part of the adventure was actually to get to Monmouth Park Racetrack on opening day in Oceanport, New Jersey.
Automobiles, Planes, trains =racehorse photo shoot.
The journey began by automobile to the Phoenix airport. Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix is the closest large airport to Prescott, Arizona. I flew out on the United Airlines red-eye which departed Phoenix at 10:30pm. Perhaps some people can fall asleep easily on a plane, but I did not find it relaxing or comfortable. I nodded off a little bit only to be awakened by the jarring and tossing of my neck as I drifted off to sleep. The temperature in the plane was quite warm. I certainly did not need the cozy blanket they had left on my seat. I really enjoy flying and I am still in awe of the technology of flying. The flight was smooth and arrived on-time in Newark New Jersey at 6:00am EST. The next portion of travel was by train. Since it was opening day at Monmouth Park, the New Jersey transit offered a train stop right at the gates of the racetrack from Newark Airport.
Several airport and NJ transit employees directed me each step of the way to get my train ticket and find the right track and board the right train and then be in the correct train car to disembark. By mid-morning I had arrived at the track. The racehorse owner and one of the trainers picked me up in a supply delivery van. Apparently in the trainers spare time, she delivers equine supplies to the various barns at the track. I received a quick tour through the backside of the track-peering through the large front window of the van and cautious that the leg wrap bandages, gallon bottles of show sheen, liniment creams and other barn and track supplies didn’t fall on me.
How to Photograph the racehorse in New Jersey, while the horse is still in Ocala, Florida?
You see, the racehorse I was supposed to photograph last week named Proper Princess was supposed to be in Oceanport, New Jersey at Monmouth Park. The photographer was there, the owner was there, even one of the trainers was there. The horse however, was in Ocala, Florida. So, I was on the Jersey Shore and the horse was in the middle of Florida waiting for transport. There was a racehorse named Durant that was also from the Keith Dickey training stables, so I photographed her instead. Of course, this was nothing like my typical commissioned shoots. There’s no turn out pasture to shoot the horse running at liberty or clean open area to graze in. There are rows and rows and rows of barns with grooms people and horses and trainers and staff everywhere. All horses must be kept on lead. So I snapped a few shots of her in the small patch of grass and yellow flowers down their barn row. In the morning I photographed a few horses just being exercised on the track and then later that day I shot a few photos of Durant in the preview circle.
Since I was with the owner and trainer of the horse competing in the race, you get to stand in a special location as they parade the horses through the crowd to preview before the race. Her race was on the inner circle in the turf, so it was difficult to catch any shots of her running due to the fence and other obstacles. Unfortunately, we did not get to stand in the winners circle that day. I saw several horses jump the gun out of the starting gate. I saw winners and losers. I ate hot dogs and drank cold beer. It was a really fun day!
The journey home from Monmouth Park Racetrack
The trip home was easy. Just reverse directions and everything else remained the same. Travel was smooth even though I had read about the long security delays at Newark Airport due to TSA layoffs. I hope to return later this summer to actually photograph the elusive missing racehorse they call Proper Princess.
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at Arts Prescott Gallery, in Arizona.