The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters announced Dec. 27 that Michael Clevenger of Louisville, Ky., has won the 2010 Media Eclipse Award for Photography for his picture of the dramatic finish between Blame and Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 6. The photo appeared on the front page of the Louisville Courier-Journal Nov. 7.
This is the second Eclipse Award for Clevenger, 45, a staff photographer for the Courier-Journal for the past 12 years. He won his first Eclipse Award in 2002 for a photo of that year’s Kentucky Derby finish.
“Winning the Eclipse Award is truly exciting and an honor that leaves me speechless because I am blessed to be recognized for making images of a beautiful sport,” said Clevenger in a release. “I know how hard so many photographers work at their craft and dedicate themselves to photographing horse racing. To be up against them is humbling, and it’s humbling to being even considered for an Eclipse.
“My true reward is to have the opportunity to have the best seats in the house to see racing history made and working at a newspaper that values what I do. I also appreciate the opportunity to make photographs that our readers enjoy seeing. Winning the Eclipse is the icing on the cake.”
Clevenger’s ground-level photo captures both Blame and Zenyatta, side by side battling to the wire. The horses are illuminated by the lights of the stretch in the center of the frame with the Twin Spires above and the crowd on its feet in the background.
“With Zenyatta’s tendency to run wide, the challenge was to figure out where she might be at the end” said Clevenger. “I timed the shutter release that she would run in the middle of the picture. It’s difficult to know and the horses don’t tell you. It’s definitely a gamble, coupled with the fact that you didn’t know how dark it was going to be for the race.”
Clevenger took the winning photo with a Canon EOS 1D-Mark III.
Honorable mention in the photography category went to two individuals: Skip Dickstein for his photo of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), which appeared in The Blood-Horse magazine Nov. 9 and Barbara Livingston for her photo of Naughty New Yorker breaking from the gate between two horses at Saratoga, which ran in Daily Racing Form Aug. 2.
Judges in the Photography category were Jim Gensheimer, photojournalist for the San Jose Mercury News; John Engelhardt, director of publicity at River Downs and Dan Johnson of the Des Moines Register.
The 40th Annual Eclipse Awards will be held Jan. 17 at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, Fla. For hotel accommodations and Eclipse Awards ceremony reservations, contact Michele Ravencraft at the NTRA's Lexington office, (800) 792-6872, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.