Derby Week 2018 - Ryan Kendall Photography

My passion for photography, but especially horse photography began when I was a young eighteen-year-old. I had just bought my first camera and I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but little did I know that a Kodak point-and-shoot camera wasn't the "real deal". I remember taking it to the race track when I would go to enjoy time with friends, and being able to capture the thoroughbreds racing was an incredible feeling. Although the images I shot probably weren't of the best quality, I fell in love with capturing the beauty of horses. A few years after, I was able to obtain a pass from my uncle who knew of someone who was able to go to backside at Churchill Downs derby week. Although I was unable to get full-access, it was still an opportunity to shoot the horses on the track during their training sessions.

Now almost 15 years later, I was not only able to gain more access but was able to capture both the Oaks and Derby from the finish line. Oaks day was a beautiful day, and watching as many races I could from the track and taking pictures extremely close to the horses, jockeys, trainers and owners was an incredible feeling. Being in the presence of some of the best equestrian photographers in the United States was also indescribable. One of the greatest moments that day was capturing the survivors parade, which I had seen many times on TV, however, seeing it in person was very emotional. Right after the parade, the running for the garland of Lilly's took place, and I was able to capture the moment as Monomy Girl crossed the finish line ahead of Wonder Gadot.

Unfortunately Derby Day was a wash out, and for the first time in Derby History, it rained as the race was going on. I had the best experience sitting on the track shooting some of the races preparing for what I would see during the Derby race. As time got closer to the post time for the Derby the rain continued to come down making it hard to even see during the race. The experience in the mud on Derby day was incredible. Being able to watch the horses run, the fans cheer and go crazy, seeing Justify cross the finish line first, the presentation of the garland of roses, and seeing the joy on the faces of the owners, jockey, trainers and their families was awesome.

The 144th Kentucky Derby was to date the biggest event I have covered throughout my career and I am hopeful of the opportunity to shoot this event and many more like it in the future. Thank you to Churchill Down's Tonya Ashley for reaching out for me, my wife for shuttling me back and forth to the track, and to Max Sharp for giving me tips and pointers on shooting horses.