Tampa Bay Downs is proud to introduce its blog, “Racing in the Sunshine.” By giving visitors an up-close and personal look at the majestic world of Thoroughbred racing, the sport’s participants – racing officials, horsemen, backstretch workers, trainers, jockeys and track employees – hope to entertain and inform fans everywhere.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Stephanie Van Minos, Track Photographer
A TampaBayDowns insider’s opinions, observations and
reflections about their
In her first racetrack assignment at Finger Lakes in Canandaigua, N.Y.,
Van Minos was preparing to shoot the finish when a horse blew the far turn,
bolted to the outside rail and headed for the gap leading back to the paddock.
Which was precisely where Van Minos was standing, focused on the finish line
and blissfully unaware of her impending peril. Fortunately her boss, Tom
Cooley, saw the situation develop and yanked her aside before she got run over.
“He told me, ‘That’s the first rule of this job – keep your eyes peeled,
because you never know what will happen,’ ” Van Minos recalled. A similar
situation happened last season at Tampa Bay Downs during a turf race when a
horse jumped the outside rail and continued down the grassy path between the
two courses; Cooley screamed to Van Minos to watch out, and she dove under the
rail just in time. In her eight years at the racetrack, Van Minos has developed
into a consummate professional, smoothing over the rough spots when a horse
gets fractious in the winner’s circle and turning out quality pieces of art for
winning horsemen. Van Minos, who works in tandem with fellow Tampa Bay Downs
photographer John Duca, doesn’t consider herself a Thoroughbred racing
authority, but has learned Tampa Bay Downs beats upstate New York in the winter.
HOMETOWN: Rochester, N.Y.
BEST HORSE I EVER
WATCHED: This is a stretch, but I’d have to say Mouse, the Miniature Horse
and Tampa Bay Downs mascot. She brightens my day when I see her walking around
the track greeting everyone.
HOW I GOT STARTED IN
RACING: I graduated with a photography degree from the University at Buffalo. A friend put me
in touch with (track photographer) Tom Cooley, and I went to the track to see
what it was all about. I didn’t know anything about horses – and still don’t –
but I knew about photography, so I got the job.
INSPIRATION: Music. It’s a huge part of my life. I love reggae music and
Indie rock, love going to concerts, and I’ve even started playing the ukulele!
ONE CHANGE I WOULD
MAKE TO RACING: I think every racetrack should have a Thoroughbred adoption
program right on the grounds, like they do at Finger Lakes.
They do a great job of adopting out retired horses and trying to get them into
MY FAVORITE SPORTS
TEAM: I’m not a big sports fan, but my dad would be disappointed if I
didn’t say the Buffalo Bills. Growing up in my house, you were either a Bills
fan or not allowed to live there.
NO. 1 ON MY BUCKET
LIST: To surf the waves in Hawaii.
I’ve surfed in southern California and CocoaBeach,
which is probably my favorite spot in Florida.
FAVORITE MOVIES: The Goonies and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The weather—you can’t get weather
like this during the winter back home in Rochester!
WHAT ELSE I’D BE
DOING IF. … I’d be a starving artist, eating Ramen noodles. I’ve tried it
before, selling still life and fine art pieces, but not enough to make a
ADVICE TO SOMEONE
STARTING IN RACING: Have a good portfolio, and know your camera. And try to
take the picture quick. There is a lot of finger-crossing when you take
pictures of horses, because you never know what you’re going to get.