Horse Track Portraits

Photography: Justin Clifford Rhody

“Only chance is fair” –Frederick Sommer

Although I don’t particularly get a rise from gambling in itself, there’s something mysteriously endearing about an environment in which “the numbers” are against you and an impractical belief in luck functions as the major impetus of operations. The horse track is a traffic jam of individualised belief systems that border on a religious nature for some people, creating a climate of coded actions and language to outsiders.

The constituency of this faith-based environment consists of people from all different walks of life and nestles them shoulder to shoulder in a shared space and mental focus. Lacking though, is any real sense of communality, so the scene is more akin to an existential constellation of bodies, throwing bursts of losing tickets in the air as they puff on large cigars and meander about.

On most Sundays I’m the outsider at the Golden Gate Fields horse track in Northern California. I don’t partake in the $1 hot dogs and I don’t even know how to place a proper bet. However, over the past few years I’ve been attending on a regular basis in order to soak up the atmosphere and photograph anonymous strangers at edge of the track fence during races.

The 7th race of the day is about to begin. The hot dog vendors and the beer tents are closing. Seagulls are beginning to circle. While looking toward the ambiguity of a cloud for some semblance of a hint, a suggestion or an answer, we remain ever in the moment, patiently awaiting the results.

Photography © Justin Clifford Rhody