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Postcards from the track

Most people retreated under the grandstand yesterday when a thunder storm broke over Keeneland before the fifth race.

Track photographer Pat Lang went in the opposite direction of the crowd. He walked out in the rain, unworried about the lightning and thunder, and climbed up on a stand trackside, where he focused his camera on the finish line.

Lang makes this trip every race, every day of the meet -- and does the same at Turfway Park and River Downs, as well. His job is to shoot the finish and the lineup in the winner's circle so that racing stables will have a memento of each win. He and longtime assistant Jason Stewart also photograph each horse in the paddock before each race.

Horse owners, trainers and jockeys pay $15 for a color 8 x 10 print. Lang said he thinks the biggest order he ever got for one race was 60 prints of a winner's circle photo.

Lang, 55, is in his 25th year as a track photographer and his sixth at Keeneland. He says he has photographed about 90,000 races.

He got into this work after some years working in TV news in Texas and New Mexico. Then one of the owners of River Downs, who married into Lang's family, recruited him as a track announcer.

Lang said that never would have worked. But after four years of doing publicity work for River Downs and Turfway, Lang was recruited as the River Downs track photographer.

"I loved doing news work for seven years, but I was dealing with people's losses, and it started to get to me," Lang said. "The nice thing about this job is I deal with nothing but winners."

Each day of the Spring Meet, Herald-Leader racing writer Maryjean Wall will look at life behind the scenes at Keeneland.

Postcards from the track