The Reuters pictures team of John Gress, Matt Sullivan and Jeff Haynes reflect on covering the past weekend’s Kentucky Derby.
By Jeff Haynes
Fast forward 25 years from 1988 and the Winning Colors victory to 2013 and Orb, include every Kentucky Derby winner in-between and you have a total of roughly 50 minutes of what I call a spring time tradition – photographing what many call the most photographed two minutes in sports. Just like in years past photographing the Derby for me is one of the most thrilling events I cover each year. 2013 was no different.
It was this annual event that got me hooked on becoming a wire service photographer. Covering the Derby is like no other event. You show up days before to go to early morning work-outs and photograph the horses training on the track, being groomed and bathed, and maybe catching a quiet moment where a trainer and horse just graze on Kentucky Blue grass on the back side of Churchill Downs.
Not much has changed in 25 years, maybe a few more people get in the way trying to get a glimpse of each horse. Then comes the first Saturday in May – the numbers change but the day is always the same. We arrived early in the morning to set up remote cameras, check the computers and internet connection so everything was ready to go for later in the day. You kill time by taking photos of beautiful ladies in even prettier hats, and guys smoking huge cigars they have waited all spring to smoke.
There are the silly hats, the mint juleps and the drunks in the infield who might not even know there is a horse race about to happen, but you always think about the race that is going to happen later in the day. We waited for the bugler to call the horses to the post for this year’s Kentucky Derby. This year’s main attraction was the rain. The rain started around 9am and didn’t stop all day, adding another factor to our long day.