Saturday, May 7, 2011

...AND THEY'RE OFF!

Neil Leifer: The 1965 Kentucky Derby, with Lucky Debonaire and Bill Shoemaker, Churchill Downs, May 1, 1965.




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Neil Leifer: The First Turn,  1965 Kentucky Derby
 


It’s really easy to name the most incredible athlete I’ve ever seen, and I always say it was Muhammad Ali, but when you really sit down to think about it, I’m not so sure that the most incredible performance I’ve ever seen was at an Ali fight. I’ve never photographed Tiger Woods, but watching Tiger on television in 2000 gave you the same feeling as watching Secretariat run away with the Triple Crown races in 1973. This picture was taken at the finish line of the Kentucky Derby. Look closely at it: have you ever seen a more powerful-looking athlete, or should I say a horse? It also clearly shows how convincing Secretariat’s Derby victory was, and this victory wasn’t nearly as convincing as the one he would pull off at the Belmont Stakes five weeks later. The picture is also very different from the traditional under-the-rail finish line shot. I forgot about the famed spires for this picture and isolated Secretariat. It was a gamble, but it worked out beautifully. I had no idea how great Secretariat was, and what a legend he would become. Five weeks later everyone knew. People had always talked about a Triple Crown winner when I was growing up, but it seemed like it would never happen again. Then along came Secretariat, and not only did it happen, but in a style so convincing that it was hard to believe that any single athlete/horse could be so better than his competition.
 -- Neil Leifer

Neil Leifer: Secretariat, The Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY, May 5, 1973


The Kentucky Derby Website