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Feature

Every picture tells a story for Bill Blakewell

What started out as taking pictures from the grandstand of a flashy near-white pacer named Blue Canyon has turned into a labor of love and over 500 photographs here at Cal Expo by 74-year-old Bill Blakewell.

His takes no money for this, his reward for the work being the smiles it brings to people as they see a moment in time that encapsulates the beauty and excitement of the sport.

“I was born in Omaha and then we moved to Oakland when I was 3,” Bill related. “My mom and my aunt loved the horses and they used to take me to Golden Gate and Bay Meadows, which was my first exposure to the racing.”

While Bill made his living in the auto leasing business, photography was one of his passions and he’s found a way to tie that love of snapping pictures with his enjoyment of the horses.

“We moved to Davis about 11 years ago, and that’s when I started coming to Cal Expo and watching the trotters and pacers. “The horse that really caught my eye was Blue Canyon, because he was big and white and almost always went to the front. I took some pictures of him from the grandstand and gave them to his owner Bridget Desomer, who posted some of them at the program stand where she worked.”

When people saw the pictures, they asked Bridget who had taken them and she sent them in Bill’s direction, including several owners and trainers who liked his work.

“They started coming to me and asking me if I would be interested to take pictures of their horses, and I really enjoyed the entire process of going to the barn area and also photographing them during the races.”

Blakewell estimates he has taken some 500 pictures here at Cal Expo and has never charged a penny for any of them. The look on the people’s faces when he presents them is all the payment he needs.

Bill was particularly proud when a composite of pictures he took of the horses My Tryin Ryan and High Dollar were part of the ceremony at Kent Fox’s funeral, spotlighted the late horsemen’s love for standardbreds at his remembrance.

“One of my favorite series of shots was of My Tryin Ryan right after his race,” Blakewell noted. “Kent would put out his head and it would look like the horse was going to take a bite out of him, but what he would do is actually kiss Kent.”

On several occasions, Blakewell has put together a montage of sorts on particular horses that start at the barn area, follow them to the paddock, including several shots during the actual running of the race and then follow the performer back to the barn.

“ I’ve also been able to take some very nice shots with drivers like Steve Desomer and Steve Wiseman, who have been great to be around.”

Owner KC Carvalho and trainer Tim Brown are also big fans of Bill’s work and he has taken many pictures of their trotters and pacers over the last several years, in addition to many horsemen who enjoy his work and want to be part of what is a growing portfolio of Cal Expo memories.