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Legendary Photos: The Stories Behind 7 of Peter Read Miller’s Iconic Sports Images

Lights, cameras, action!

Zenyatta – Horse Race

Photo of Zenyatta horse

The 2009 Breeder’s Cup was held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, CA.  Although she was a filly, Zenyatta was favored to win the Breeder’s Cup Classic, the most important race of the day. She did win, but not in the way I expected.

Covering horse racing can be a team effort. It involves remote cameras, second shooters and assistants. I believe I had six people including myself out that day. We had coverage on the first, second and fourth turn, plus numerous remotes at the finish line. I was at turn one at the end of the stretch giving me a view of the horses as they came out of the gate and down the stretch and again as they headed to the finish.

Zenyatta broke last out of the gate and was completely buried in the pack as she came by me the first time. She stayed in the pack sometimes running dead last all around the track even through turn four. At that point she swung wide and passed every horse to win the race and become the first female to win the Breeder’s Cup.

I was shooting with the Canon 500mm lens. While I had a clear shot of her crossing the line, she is completely alone as she was so far off the rail that no horses showed behind her. Her jockey raised his hand but did little else. No one on the corners got anything and she was too far out for the finish line for the remote cameras.


I was beyond disappointed. I threw my lens over my shoulder and headed back to the finish line to pack up. As I started to cross the track I looked down at the finish as saw this moment. The photographer’s orange vests, the jockey’s teal and pink colors with his arms stretched out and head thrown back. I knew my day had not been wasted at all. Let’s say “I was in the wrong place, but it must have been the right time.”

Camera: Canon 7D Mk II

Lens: Canon EF 500mm f4L IS USM


Exposure: f4.5 @ 1/2500, ISO 2500

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