A horse named “Just Vic”

Let me state right now that my original plan changed in minutes.  It went from excitement to concern.

I wanted to test out whether my Russian ultra-wide Krasnogorsk FT-2 camera “Raskolnikov” could handle some race action.  I say that because I had a roll of Revolog Tesla 1 boutique film, with its pre-printed lightning strikes, already loaded into one of Raskolnikov’s proprietary cartridges.

And last Sunday, I was at Saratoga Harness (okay, Saratoga Casino and Raceway if you’re going to be nit-picky about it), with the plan to photograph an ultra-wide shot of a horse race.  Okay, cue the hypothesis statement.

Experiment with Krasnogorsk ФT-2 “Raskolnikov” camera

PARAMETERS: To photograph a horse race in an ultrawide configuration.

SOFTWARE: One roll of Revolog Tesla 1 film, which contains pre-printed lightning strikes on the film base.


I set my camera up near the finish line of the half-mile oval track.  Unlike a thoroughbred horse race, which would feature only one pass by my camera with the horses up to speed, I could get three shots at a standardbred race – one as the horses and truck-toting starting gate pass by me, once at the halfway mark of the race, and once as they dash to the finish line.  Which, with a twelve-exposure roll of Revolog Tesla 1 film, should get me at least three good ultrawide shots.

As the six horses passed me in progression at the halfway mark of the race, I got this shot.

Saratoga Harness with Revolog Tesla film

Don’t mind the lightning strikes in the picture, that’s just the Revolog Tesla film doing its job.

In fact, I could crop out most of the superfluous border in the original photo, and still get this picture of six horses racing for glory.

harness 4
Saratoga Harness, cropped. Krasnogorsk FT-2 camera, Revolog Tesla I film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And here’s the finish shot, as five horses battle for the win.

Saratoga Harness with Revolog Tesla film 2

But there were six horses in the race.  Only five crossed the finish line.

And thus begins the story of Just Vic.

The horse in fifth place at the time, horse #3, was named Just Vic.  Just Vic is a reddish-brown “bay colt” gelding, born in February of 2011.  His father, or “sire,” was a horse named Justice Hall, who won sixteen races and made over $750,000 in race purses for his owners.  Just Vic’s mother, or “dam,” was named Uptown Victory.  She never raced, I guess that makes her a stay-at-stable mom.  Ha.

A winner of three harness races prior to Sunday’s race (all down at Monticello Raceway, prior to his arrival at Saratoga Harness), Just Vic is currently owned by the Dowd family, who operate Stone Hollow Farm and Dowd Racing Stable in Stillwater.

On Sunday morning, Just Vic raced at 17-1 odds.  He was in fifth place at the halfway mark of the race, and now it was time for Just Vic to make his move.  There he goes.  He’s moving from fifth place … to fourth … on the backstretch he’s up to second place and running nose to nose with the leader, Northern Matador – in fact, Just Vic and Northern Matador were once owned by the same trainer, Jackie Rousse, before the Dowd family claimed Just Vic.  It’s Just Vic and Northern Matador, nose and nose…

And then Just Vic broke stride.  I don’t know what happened, but I do know that when a harness horse breaks stride, he has to slow down and give the right-of-way to other horses and then resume his trot, or else the horse is disqualified.  But as Just Vic reached the rear of the field, his sulkie locked wheels with another rider’s sulkie.

And if you’ve seen Ben Hur, you know what will happen when those big oversized wheels crack into each other.  And it’s not pleasant.

Just Vic, as well as his driver Billy Dobson, flipped over.  At least twice.  Dobson crawled out of the sulkie and fell to the ground.  Just Vic lay on his back, his legs flailing in the air as he tried to right himself.  A white truck immediately arrived on the scene.

Billy Dobson was taken to the hospital.  The announcer’s only comments were that there would be some driver changes for the rest of the day, and that there might be a delay before the next race.

But what happened to the horse?  What happened to the driver?  No news at all.

Eventually I heard that Billy Dobson returned to the track, but he was unable to race for the rest of the day; other drivers took Dobson’s mounts.  But no news on Just Vic.

I hoped there would be some news in the Times Union; but the only horse-racing coverage involved the probabilities of which horse would enter the Kentucky Derby.  No word on Just Vic.  Nothing.

I was worried.  I heard stories about the “white tent,” which if a horse was injured in a race, a white tent would be erected around the animal.  A few moments later, the horse would be euthanized.  Put down.

Eventually, I did find out that Just Vic did survive the crash.  Whether he races next week or next month or next year is still up in the air.

What I saw was totally scary.  And yet, there was more news about who won the race than the condition of the injured horse and driver.

So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to keep Just Vic in my thoughts.  I’m going to keep an eye on the racing forms for any news on the horse, whether he’ll return or whether he’ll spend the rest of his days chomping on hay and relaxing in the summer sunshine.

And if he does return to racing, I promise that any time I see Just Vic racing at Saratoga or at any other track, I’ll place a “win-place-show” bet on him.  I don’t care if he couldn’t finish fifth in a four-horse race, I’m still going to give him a chance to win some money.

Because if Just Vic can return from a gruesome accident on the track and still be competitive…

Then hell yeah I’m going to bet on him.  Because if a horse can stare death in the face and whinny about “I ain’t gonna be stopped, no way, no how, not today, not ever…”

Then that kinda gives hope for all of us.