Photo Album

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A pile of photographs sits on my desk. The pile was in a box, but I needed the box so I removed the photos. I’ve looked through some, once or twice, but not all. Then I moved on to something else. Then I came back to them. Then I left again. Then I came back. They’re random, from all eras and sources. I’m not sure how they wound up together in a box, but they amaze me.

This is Edition 2. Read the first here.

Skinny kid on a horse. By Rosanne Berkenstock, surely from the collection of the National Steeplechase Association. Future champion steeplechase trainer Jack Fisher sits on Juggernaut, a timber horse owned by his parents Dolly and John, after winning the 1981 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Fisher is 17, thin (gaunt even), tired and wearing turtleneck-sweater jockey silks. Juggernaut won the timber race two years earlier with now Maryland steward Ross Pearce aboard. Bred in France, Juggernaut was imported by John Fisher in 1975. The horse had been injured in a fall as a young horse, and lost his bottom teeth so – pretty much all the time – his tongue flopped out of his mouth. Fisher and Juggernaut won the Virginia Gold Cup a few weeks after this photo was taken. 

Three Chimneys at Saratoga. One of my favorite things about this photo is how crooked it is on the paper. Deirdre Davie didn’t really care about details like that. She was too busy dodging and burning and doing whatever else photographers do in the darkroom. This one is a masterpiece. It’s Saratoga, on Fasig-Tipton’s sales grounds, and captures 14 people and two horses. The people are working – showing or looking at yearlings, talking shop. Judging from some other variables, the photo is from 1995. Anybody know who was in the Three Chimneys consignment in 1995?

Generations. Taken by Bill Cain (of Columbia, S.C.) in 1971, this one captures trainer Betty Bird and her nephew J.B. Secor riding out together at Springdale Race Course in Camden. Bird, trainer of Maryland Hunt Cup winner and future English chasing star Fort Devon among others in a long career in racing, is properly turned out on a gray – hunting saddle, double-reined pelham bridle, tweed coat, breeches, paddock boots, heels down, velvet-covered helmet and eyes ahead. Secor is on a bay in an exercise saddle, foot jammed home in the stirrup, Caliente helmet with the chin strap unbuttoned. The horses are just about in-step, walking to or from an exercise session. Secor rode two horses at the 1971 Colonial Cup, both for Bird, and finished seventh with Last Tune in the first race on the flat and 10th aboard Full Prince in the fifth over hurdles. That 1971 card, the meet’s second, included a 14-horse Colonial Cup won by Inkslinger and Tommy Carberry over fellow 4-year-old Soothsayer (champion the next year) by a neck. The 1970 champion Top Bid was third, followed by 1971 champion Shadow Brook in fourth and future English star Tingle Creek fifth. Gran Kan, champion steeplechaser of 1974, won a race on the undercard. In addition to Carberry, European jockeys Stan Mellor and Graham Thorner took part. 

Blythe 1 and 2. Taken by Davie, these capture jump jockey Blythe Miller (now Davies) in her element – silks, helmet, single set of goggles, fingerless knit gloves – at the Charleston Cup Steeplechase in 1997. In the first, she’s got a wry smile like she’s about to win a race. In the second, she’s about to sign the program of a young fan. For Miller, she didn’t have a good day – two fourths, a fall and an eighth in four rides – but closed the year by winning the Colonial Cup aboard Lonesome Glory a week later.

Turning in. Captured by Douglas Lees, 13 horses get ready to make the left-handed turn during an early loop at Middleburg’s historic Glenwood Park. Somehow, almost every horse is airborne, or appears to be airborne. On the back, in black marker, Lees scrawled Theodora Randolph Cup won by Effervescent. That means it’s 2001, and she’s in the center (white cap, dark silks with one hoop showing). Fenella O’Flynn rode the daughter of Citidancer for owner/trainer/breeder Jonathan Sheppard. 

Style Guide. Now this is a gem. Davie captured two young steeplechase fans getting a view of three horses in various stages of readiness for a jump race at Saratoga in 1995. Tom Voss runners Lone Mountain (left) and Roberto’s Grace (right) were getting saddled as jockeys Simon Hobson (silks with dark stripe) and Cort Marzullo waited. The Voss entry finished in the back as Roberto’s Grace checked in last of seven and Lone Mountain was pulled up. The photo marks time, even if we don’t know who the girls are. Marzullo, 40, died in 2011. Voss (with back to camera saddling Roberto’s Grace) died in 2014 at age 63. 

This appeared in the May 23 edition of The 2020 Special.