'80s Flashback

After my first Derby experience as a photographer in '85, I was hooked. Event photography is very exciting; it takes a lot of planning and work, but it’s well worth the results. During the early years of my time at The Blood-Horse, Martin Jessee (a Lexington Herald Leader photographer for many years) led the publication's photography team. He showed me how to approach assignments during a major sporting event and how to run remote cameras. I used Nikon F3 camera bodies with motor drives all through the '80s and well into the '90s even as newer models were introduced.
While still learning sports photography, I was lucky to have a knowledge of horses and racing. The next four Derbys-Ferdinand, Alysheba, Winning Colors, and Sunday Silence—were full of characters and history.
Bill Shoemaker driving Ferdinand through a hole on the rail wins his fourth Kentucky Derby! Celebrities such as dancer Ginger Rogers, all in pink, were fan favorites.

Preston Madden, famous for his Derby parties given with wife Anita, bred 1987 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba. Madden’s father John had bred five Derby winners!
The big gray filly, Winning Colors, became only the third Derby-winning filly. She was an amazing sight during training. She took command on the final turn. I placed a remote camera on the Derby starter’s stand and caught Winning Colors all alone as she took command on the turn for home.
In 1989 running cameras on the final turn paid off once again. Sunday Silence made his move, going past horses and charging into the homestretch.

Bill Shoemaker 

Bill Shoemaker relaxing in corporate executive style.

Ginger Rogers

Actress, dancer, and singer, Ginger Rogers snapping photos that day as well.


  Alysheba, on the outside coming off the backstretch. Order this photo.

Preston Madden

Preston Madden

Winning Colors

Winning Colors, all alone. Order this photo.

Sunday Silence 1

 Sunday Silence (yellow silks) making his move. Order this photo.

Sunday Silence 2

Sunday Silence taking the lead. Order this photo.


Hope you have enjoyed the '80s flashback. It brought back some memories for me; hopefully, it did the same for you.  I would love to hear about them! Now that I have taken you back to the late '80s, we will head into the early '90s.  Some great times at Churchill Downs!  Can't wait to share some of them with you.


Leave a Comment:


Ah yes the 80's.  I was there the day Winning Colors won the Santa Anita Derby by 8-10!  I remember driving to Vegas for the Derby.  Back then one didn't get track odds. I also saw Sunday Silence blast Lukas's 3 million dollar wonder Houston in the Santa Anita Derby.  And who can forget Ferdinand.  He breaks poorly, gets shuffled back, and is last going into the first turn at Churchill. Didn't Snow Chief put away Ferdinand at Hollywood Park as a two year old?  And what about those Bet Twice/Alysheba match ups far before the "Two Derby horses hit the wire together!"  You've capture one of the best periods of American racing.

27 Apr 2010 7:07 PM

I remember a photo of Sunday Silence grazing in a paddock in a local newspaper; I am from Uruguay, and at the time I was a teenager and already loved horses.  the name impressed me, I still recall that image. Thank you for the wonderful pics! Though I live far I really enjoy getting to know these wonderful horses

27 Apr 2010 9:31 PM
Matthew W

The 80's were so strong! TWO fillies won the Derby! Alysheba almost falling! Spend A Buck crushing! Pleasant Colony, all class! And Swale! Brilliant! Of corse, the best of them all may have been a non-Derby winner--Risen Star, or even Conquistador Cielo! Throw in the two great ones, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer! Ha! "throw in"!! Yes, those 80's were strong....

27 Apr 2010 11:04 PM
Matt Goins

Love the Winning Colors shot, and Ginger Rogers with a vintage "disk" camera!

28 Apr 2010 7:43 AM

Anne......I used to buy conformation photos from you years ago when I was in college.  I can honestly say you have not lost your touch.  You have a wonderful talent and I always pay attention to the photo's when I see your name attached.  The Winning Colors shot of her entering the stretch is fantastic....same for my favorite horse....Sunday Silence.  Any chance you can post his picture again?  Best of luck to you.

28 Apr 2010 1:10 PM

The 80'5 as such a great decade with so many great horses.  I remember each one of those Derby winners.  Sunday Silence was my favorite and I was lucky enough to visit him on the backside at SA.  Those were the days and thanks for posting those marvelous photos.

28 Apr 2010 3:29 PM

I had the good fortune to be on the finish line when Genuine Risk crossed the finish line at the 1980 Kentucky Derby, the first filly at that time since Regret in 1915.  My aunt and her husband had box seats for over 60 years, so they had seen it all. When GR crossed the finish line, my aunt, with tears streaming down her face, exclaimed, "She won! She won!"  There weren't too many dry eyes that day.  It took many years before I fully appreciated just what a special moment that really was.  I was lucky enough to have gotten some great pictures with my Canon black body, but none so wonderful as yours. Thanks for the trip back.  Wish I could have seen Sunday Silence race in person. He is one of my personal favorites of all time.

08 Jan 2012 8:00 PM

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