Haskin Photo Blog: Journey with the Greats

With my cup runneth over with 3-year-olds these days, I had it suggested to me to run more old photos of great horses. So that is just what I did. They're not exactly professional and a few are downright amateurish, but they're all from the heart. Some of these, mainly Secretariat and Riva Ridge, have been posted on earlier blogs, but this is more of a gallery of greats, with many of the photos accompanied by personalized captions in an effort to bring the readers closer to these magnificent horses and their personalities. So, step back in time and enjoy the images of racing and the horses who made history.

Damascus, the horse who started it all. He was tough and durable, a real blue-collar horse who had the most explosive, devastating move I've ever seen, even to this day. It is only fitting that in my first photo of him at Claiborne Farm he is dashing through his paddock caked in dirt.

And how did Damascus get covered in dirt? He loved getting down and dirty in his paddock, just as he did on the racetrack.

Laffit Pincay raises his whip in triumph after 4-year-old Affirmed defeated 3-year-old Spectacular Bid in their epic Horse of the Year showdown in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Yours truly with Alydar.

This isn't a very good photo, but it's one of my favorites for nostalgic reasons. This is Dr. Fager at Saratoga about to work five furlongs for the following week's Washington Park Handicap, in which he set a new world record for the mile. The day before, I had purchased my first camera, a Kodak Brownie Instamatic, and just as Dr. Fager stepped on to the track, the skies opened up. As everyone ran for cover, I went the other way, dashing to the rail to get my quick shot of Dr. Fager. As you can see, the exercise rider and pony rider are looking at this idiot who's running out in the pouring rain to take a photo. Despite the poor quality and composition, you can see still see that rich blood bay coat and how Dr. Fager is already in a zone, focused on the task at hand, his neck slightly arched and nostrils flared . I've kept this photo in my wallet ever since.

These next three photos of Secretariat were published in an earlier blog, but I decided to post them again. This first one is after being saddled in the Preakness. I had photographed him looking straight ahead, and when he heard the click of the shutter, he turned his head and looked right at me...or through me. It was a memorable one-on-one moment with a legend.

This one is of Secretariat and Riva Ridge at Belmont Park going out for separate works on the turf course in September. The slow mile was of no help to Big Red after Penny Tweedy and Lucien Laurin decided to run the colt in the Woodward Stakes and scratch Riva Ridge when the track came up sloppy. Secretariat had just broken the world record for 1 1/8 miles two weeks earlier after having been sick and now he was being asked to come back quickly and stretch out to 1 1/2 miles. Prove Out still had to run the second-fastest mile and a half in Belmont history in the mud to beat him.

Finally, this is my favorite shot of Secretariat at stud. When we approached the fence, he went over and picked up a large branch and brought it over, defying me to try pull it out of his mouth. I felt like I was playing fetch with a dog.

This shot of Riva Ridge the morning after his record-breaking victory in the Brooklyn Handicap also has been published, but it is way too cute not to post again. Riva was such a sweetheart, By the way, that kid holding him is Steve Jordan, who is in charge of the holding barn at NYRA where the horses go before a race. Jordan celebrated his 64th birthday last Belmont Day.

Seattle Slew, with Jean Cruguet up, and Billy Turner on the pony, on a beautiful, quiet morning at Belmont.

Forego never met a camera he didn't like. Here, several unsuspecting fans got a rare treat when the Mighty Forego came to the paddock one afternoon for a short visit.

Speaking of Forego's likes, he always enjoyed a visit from Eddie Hayward, knowing a bag of apples came with the visit.

Check out the bright, intelligent eye of Spectacular Bid as he cools out following his victory in the Preakness.

Spectacular Bid's eyes became as big as saucers everytime he walked by Davona Dale, whose pinned ears suggests she's not enamored with the great Bid. She had just won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes the day before, and as far as she was concerned, she was the royalty in the stakes barn.

The one and only Exceller in happier days.

Following a rare battle between Kentucky Derby winners, the victorious Canonero II heads to the winner's circle after his American record-breaking victory in the Stymie Handicap, as the vanquished Riva Ridge goes to get unsaddled. Notice Canonero's jockey is Gustavo Avila, who was summoned from Venezuela to ride the colt following several disappointing performances for new owner King Ranch. Avila, of course, piloted Canonero to his stunning victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

If Bob Baffert's friends thought he was goofy, imagine what his Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm and Real Quiet are thinking.

A.P. Indy greets a visitor during his first year at stud. Who knew?

Affirmed gallops around the Oklahoma training track as a 4-year-old as he prepares for the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Few horses had as kind a disposition as Affirmed. He and Riva Ridge were a pleasure to be around, even as stallions.

Secretariat's farewell at Aqueduct. Once again he put on a show, breaking off into a show horse canter. As he headed back toward the clubhouse turn, a shaft of light beamed down directly on him and seemed to illuminate him, creating a surreal final image.

Finally, Secretariat rises like the Phoenix at his new home at Claiborne Farm.

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