The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters announced Dec. 28 that Tom Keyser of Saratoga Springs has won the 2012 Media Eclipse Award for Photography for his photo of the start of the Brooklyn Handicap (GII) at Belmont Park. The photo appeared on the Daily Racing Form web site drf.com on July 12.
This is the fourth Eclipse Award for Keyser, who won three while writing for the Baltimore Sun in 1996, 1998, and in 1999 for the Breeders’ Cup Souvenir Magazine. He becomes the first individual to win a Media Eclipse for both writing and photography.
Keyser began taking pictures several years ago to help his partner, Barbara Livingston, who is chief photographer for Daily Racing Form and winner of the Photography Eclipse in 1992 and in 2001. Livingston earned an honorable mention in this category.
"I’m embarrassed winning this because Barbara is the real photographer," Keyser admitted. "Her photograph of Danny Perlsweig and Lord Avie shows the difference between a professional like her and someone who points a camera and shoots like me."
On his reaction to becoming the first person to win a Media Eclipse for both writing and photography, Keyser said, "I’m sort of dumbfounded. I certainly never aspired to be a photographer, and if I wasn’t helping Barbara, I wouldn’t be doing this. All I can say is: It’s funny how the world turns."
For his winning photo, Keyser stood on the infield platform with his hand-held camera and captured the 6-year-old Birdrun nearly unseating his rider Rajiv Maragh at the start of the Brooklyn. Maragh’s body is draped over Birdrun’s head, with the rider’s right leg in the air. In a terrific feat of athleticism, Maragh recovers and gets back in the saddle to continue the race.
Keyser acknowledged that several others photographers on the stand with him likely captured a similar image.
"I was there for the finish of the race, but because the Brooklyn was a 1 ½ mile race, the start happened right in front of us," Keyser said. "So you photograph it. Most of those pictures you never use, but you never know when a jockey might fly off his horse or something."
The winning photo was taken with a Canon Mark III with a 70-200 lens f2.8.
Commenting about working as a photographer after more than 40 years as a writer (10 years covering racing for the Baltimore Sun), Keyser said: "I never had any idea how hard photographers work, and I don’t think most reporters do. It’s physically demanding—carrying all that equipment, ducking under rails with cameras draped on your shoulders, kneeling down countless times to check your remote cameras (placed under the rail aimed at the finish), and doing it in all kinds of weather. Also, when I was a reporter, we all got along pretty well. I wouldn’t have suspected how competitive, horse-racing photography is."
Honorable mention in the Photography category went to Livingston for her photograph of Dan Perlsweig caressing his former champion Lord Avie, which appeared in DRF Weekend and to Chris Alpin, for her portrait of 2011 Eclipse Award winning Sprinter Amazombie, which appeared in the November edition of Horseplayer magazine.
Judges in the Photography category were Michael Lasky of Lasko Photography; former Eclipse Award winning photographer Kim Pratt of Parx Racing and Dan Dry of Power Creative Photography and official Breeders’ Cup photographer.