My Kentucky Oaks Experience
By: Shannel Cacho
The Kentucky Oaks is one of the biggest Grade I stakes races for three year olds fillies, and it is definitely one of the most anticipated races of the year. This year I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Oaks on the media side of things with HRRN.
Prior to the fillies going to the paddock, the fillies and their connections (owners, trainers, etc…) do the “walkover” from the barns, across the track, and through the tunnel into the paddock. I hadn’t planned on doing the walkover and honestly didn’t have the right kind of shoes to walk on a wet track, but after meeting some of my colleagues on the track I decided to participate in the walkover. The main reason I made this decision was so that I could get pictures of my colleagues interviewing owners and trainers during the walkover. Participating in the walkover was one of the coolest experiences that I have ever had. Although the track conditions weren’t ideal and I was practically slow jogging backwards (I’m pretty sure everyone was power walking during this walkover) while trying to take photos and not trip or step in a bad area. I absolutely loved being a part of that tradition and it helped me to completely immerse myself in the Oaks experience. Once the walkover was complete and we were all in the paddock, I alternated between taking pictures of the fillies as they got prepped, to taking pictures of the interviews that we were doing. Before I knew it “riders up” was called and we followed the horses out of the paddock, through the tunnel, and onto the track for the post parade.
Since I am a part of the media, I had the option and privilege to watch the race from the track. To be honest I wanted to watch the race from the track because how amazing is it to be able to say that I watched the Kentucky Oaks from the track itself? Plus it also gave me a better vantage point for taking photos. Some of my favorite photos to take are bursts from when the horses leave the starting gate. With that being said, as they started to lead in the gate I had my camera focused on the starting gate and my finger was sitting on the button ready to go. Once I heard Larry Columbus say “And they’re in the gate for the 145th running of the Kentucky Oaks” I got chills as the bell sounded when the starting gate opened and I heard the roar of the crowd, the thunder of the hooves from the horses, and the shutter from my camera firing rapidly. I was watching the race from the lens of my camera and after a few strides, I along with many others did a collective gasp as Positive Spirit went down with Manny Franco. My biggest worry was them getting run over and/or being hurt but luckily they were at the back and both horse and rider got up rather quickly. Next thing that I see as I look directly in front of me is the rest of the horses thundering by, and then just seconds later one of the outriders had a hold of Positive Spirit. The swiftness of the outrider really impressed me, and I was thankful that the situation was handled quickly and with no injuries. Once I saw that everything was okay, I turned my attention to the screen to watch the race until they rounded the stretch and I was back to watching through my camera lens. Watching and feeling that field of fillies run past me to the wire gave me such a rush. After Serengeti Empress won the Oaks, we were back in action and I once again was taking pictures of the interviews. I never would have imagined that I would have been able to experience the Oaks in the manner that I did, but I am definitely blessed and appreciative of the fact that I got to experience the totality of the event. In all honestly, experiencing the Oaks in the manner that I did only made me more excited and eager for the Derby.