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Hard Day, Night for Track Photo Staff
Four years ago, Fair Grounds photographer Lynn Roberts won an Eclipse Award for one of her finish line shots at the local oval, but she probably would have made a deal with the devil to give it back in the first anxious moments following Saturday’s fifth race on opening weekend here.
That was when her daughter – apprentice jockey Anna Roberts – was scarily unseated after her mount Kelly’spremonition clipped heels with a rival approaching the stretch.
“I had her in my (lens) sights but I hadn’t started shooting yet because the rail (on the turn) was still in the way, but I could see her horse was picking up the leaders when she went down,” said Lynn Roberts. “I tried to be a photographer first but as soon as I got my shot I went running up the stretch to go to her. Fortunately, I could see her getting up to her feet well before I got there. When I finally did, I could see she had a lot of scrapes and bruises but she told me she was all right.
“Once I saw she was all right I caught a ride back in the truck, retrieved my camera and came back to the unsaddling area,” said Roberts. “Eric (Halstrom, Fair Grounds vice president and general manager) was there, Austin (Miller, Fair Grounds president) was there, and a whole bunch of the track crew all asking me how she was doing and I assured them she was going to be all right.
“Of course Lou (Hodges, longtime Fair Grounds head track photographer and Roberts’ employer) was obviously very concerned and was very relieved as well,” said Roberts.
“Then we all went and looked at the replay and saw that other horse (the subsequently disqualified Diamante de Oro) beginning to bolt and that caused Anna’s horse to clip heels,” said Roberts. “There wasn’t a lot anybody could do. James (Graham, jockey aboard Diamante de Oro) came up to me and put his arms around me, and he must have apologized five times, but after watching the replay we could tell it wasn’t his fault. He was doing everything he could to keep his horse from bolting. What made Anna mad was that she felt she was sitting on a winner before she went down.
“Chris McCarron (retired Hall of Fame jockey who founded the North American Riding Academy that started Anna on her career) called from Santa Anita where he was working the Breeders’ Cup to ask about her, and of course we really appreciated that,” Roberts said.
“Lou’s daughter Elizabeth, who is not a jockey but rides English style, was taken to the hospital yesterday after a spill and Lou got the word on that during the races. Fortunately, she’s going to be all right as well and was released later in the day,” Roberts said.
“Then, in the last race of the day Anna’s mount (Ipilee) took a bad step leaving the gate and she got dumped again,” Roberts said. “So now, of course, we’ve had to listen to a lot of jokes about super glue and seat belts.
“All in all, you could say it was an interesting day in the Fair Grounds photography department,” Roberts concluded.
Introducing Apprentice Jockey Jansen Melancon at Fair Grounds
Apprentice jockey Jansen Melancon may look familiar to longtime Fair Grounds guests despite the fact that this is his first season riding at the Crescent City oval. That’s because he has the same profile as his more famous father, jockey Gerard Melancon – currently riding at Delta Downs but a longtime local reinsman with approximately 3,500 winners to his credit.
Jansen Melancon, 21, born in Lafayette, Louisiana, rode bulls competitively before graduating from high school and credits that experience with helping him feel more relaxed on the back of horse.
The youngster also rode Quarter Horses through the conclusion of the summer meeting at Delta Downs, began riding Thoroughbreds the following week at Evangeline Downs and quickly posted two longshot winners at that oval.
At the present time, the elder Melancon remains at Delta Downs while his son gets his Fair Grounds career under way.