After that race and leaving the track, I went by the jockey quarters. I sneaked in to find out what was going on. Winning jockey Bill Shoemaker was just arriving, followed by a mob of press.
Using my best diminutive skills, I was able to sneak up next to Shoemaker’s side, getting a nice variety of portraits. Shoemaker smiled because he knew I wasn’t one of his jockey colleagues.
I left Louisville that afternoon and made it to Glasgow in two hours. I processed my film and made prints for the Monday edition of the Daily Times. My first Derby was complete.
For the next 54 years, the Derby has intrigued me. I look forward to it every year just like a young child looks forward to the holidays. I look forward to working with other members of the photo staff and the many freelancers the Courier-Journal hires to cover what has been called “the greatest two minutes in sports.”
It has been hard work, but it is also very satisfying.
Photographers who have inspired me over the years have been Tom Hardin, Billy Davis, Ben Van Hook, Bob Steinau, Pam Spaulding, Mike Coers, Bud Kamenish, Pat McDonogh, Bill Strode, Scott Utterback, Jay Mather and Gary Bogdon.
I just finished my 54th Derby in May, and my goal is 60. I will be 80 years old. ■
Bill Luster, left, at his 54th Kentucy Derby. Photo by Matt Herp.
Luster worked at the Courier-Journal for 42 years. He did two stories for National Geographic magazine and 10 stories for National Geographic Traveler. He shared two team Pulitzer Prizes. The first in 1976 for desegregation coverage and in 1989 for the Carrllton, Kentucky bus crash that killed 24 children and three adults. Luster was the 1982 finalist for Newspaper Photographer of the Year and won the 1985 Clarion Award for International Reporting for environmental issues in Europe. He was named Kentucky Photographer of the Year five times. He can be reached at 502-558-0722.