‘Down to Earth' Brings Lees Second Media Eclipse Award


(Saturday, January 19, 2008 5:08 PM EST)

t's been almost 30 years since his last win, but Douglas Lees' persistence has paid off.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association recently announced that the freelance photographer from Warrenton is the recipient of the 2007 Media Eclipse Award for Photography for his photo “Down to Earth.”

Lees first won the award in 1978 for a photo he took at the Foxfield Races in Charlottesville, and has entered his work almost every year since.

“Receiving this award for the second time is such an honor after 29 years,” Lees said in a recent interview. “I didn't think it would happen.”

In this year's winning photo, Lees captures jockey Will Haynes and his 8-year-old gelding Navesink View tumbling over one of the four-foot fences at Great Meadow Race Course during the International Gold Cup. Neither horse nor rider was injured.

“Down to Earth” isn't the first time Lees has caught a fall at Great Meadow. In 1994, he received an Eclipse honorable mention for a photo of jockey David Bourke and mount Political Angel (owned by Randy Rouse) falling over the same fence that posed problems this year. Bourke wasn't as lucky as Haynes, however, and broke his hip.

Lees also received Eclipse honorable mentions for an underneath shot of a hurdle race at the Virginia Gold Cup in 1980 and for a three-photo entry in 1981.

Eclipse awards recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of thoroughbred racing. The awards are named after 18th-century racehorse and sire Eclipse, and winners receive a bronze statue sculpted in his likeness.

Lees will receive the statue at a ceremony to be held late this month in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Although Lees is the one being honored for his photographic work, he said he wants his parents to be recognized for their contribution to his success. Lees' mother and father were the ones who taught him how to develop black-and-white film and were very supportive of his interest in the art form.

“They were my first-line editors - to this day, my father gets a look at my pictures,” he said.

Although Lees does not have immediate plans to exhibit “Down to Earth” in the Hunt Country area, he anticipates that it will be published widely.

Douglas Lees now has now won two of the prestigious Eclipse awards.
(Photo by Mary Beth Martin)

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