The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced Jan. 4 that Tod Marks won the 2016 Media Eclipse Award for Photography for a picture of the stretch run of the Sloan Hurdle at the Iroquois Steeplechase meet in Nashville, during which fallen jockey Kieran Norris is diving toward his loose whip as his luckier competitor, Hooded, streaks by.
The photograph appeared in the July/August issue of the Chronicle of the Horse Untacked.
This is the first Eclipse Award for Marks, who resides in Yonkers, N.Y., and is a regular contributor to The Chronicle of the Horse, The Saratoga Special, thisishorseracing.com, and many other publications. He's also the primary photographer for the National Steeplechase Association. In 2010, Marks was honored with Canada's Sovereign Award for Photography.
Marks will receive his trophy at the 46th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony Jan. 21, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The Eclipse Awards are presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders' Cup, and The Stronach Group, and produced by the NTRA.
"This is an immense honor and I am deeply touched," said Marks. "It's fair to say I am humbled, overwhelmed, and stunned. Like many of my fellow photographers, I am driven by my admiration for these magnificent, quirky creatures who give their all. Their beauty, majesty, and power fuel my love for the game and feeds my desire to showcase the racehorse—and those around them—in new and different ways.
"My grandmother introduced me to horse racing as a 5-year-old. I recall sitting on her lap watching the Race of the Week hosted by Win Elliot and Fred Capossela on local TV here in New York. That childhood fascination burns as brightly for me now as it did back then. I am fortunate to have been able to turn that passion into a career."
In the George & John Sloan Hurdle, there was great intensity approaching the last jump. Jockey Norris, aboard Help From Heaven, was unseated trying to avoid another fallen runner, Bishop's Castle. Jack Doyle, the rider of Hooded, stayed out of trouble, albeit in tight quarters with the airborne Norris.
"Instead of following the fallen horses, the instinctive thing to do, I tossed a coin inside my head and opted to track Hooded, the leader, and Norris, who flew into the frame, pressing the shutter at the right moment," Marks recalled. "Photography is all about timing—being in the right place, at the right time, and at the ready. But you have to have luck, too."
Marks took the winning photograph with a Nikon D3S equipped with a 70-200mm/f2.8 lens.
"As a print journalist in my other life for more than 35 years, I have a special appreciation for photography, specifically sports photojournalism," he said. "Unlike writing, in which everyone has an opinion as to how to approach and write a story, with photography there's no ambiguity, no do-overs. Either you get the shot or you don't. And when you hit a home run, it connects on a visceral or emotional level that's even more powerful than words."
Honorable mention in the Photography category went to Alex Evers for the finish of the 2016 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff, which appeared in the Cecil Guardian Nov. 15, 2016, and to Scott Serio, for a sunrise at Santa Anita, which also appeared in the Cecil Guardian, Nov. 14, 2016.
Judges in the Photography category were Rayetta Burr of Benoit & Associates, Bill Denver of Equi-Photos, Inc., Michael Lasky of Lasko Photography, and Rick Samuels of Rick Samuels Photography.