Alex Zhang Captures Stunning Photos of Horses—and the People Who Love Them

Last summer’s Saratoga Race Course season was a bummer for all manner of racing fans. Not only were spectators not allowed on the track grounds, but they also couldn’t set foot on the Oklahoma Training Track, unless they were considered “essential personnel.” That didn’t stop Clifton Park–based photographer Alex (Wei) Zhang and a group of like-minded horse racing fans and photographers from showing up early to watch the horses train from outside the Oklahoma’s fence on East Avenue, and, eventually, devise a plan to get themselves inside it.

“Most of us were frustrated that we couldn’t get in,” says Zhang of his experience last year at the Oklahoma. “So we said, ‘Let’s just buy a horse!’” That was the beginning of East Ave Racing Stable, which, named for the partnership’s fence-side roots, owns the 2-year-old filly Vallelujah. This year, though the Oklahoma remained closed to spectators up until June 26, it opened back up to owners in May, so every person who owned even a small percentage of Vallelujah, Zhang included, had a free pass to the morning workouts.

An engineer at GE Global Research in Niskayuna by day, Zhang first got into photography about 10 years ago. His true passion is wildlife photography, but he hasn’t had as much time to pursue it since having children. “For wildlife, you have to spend a lot of time finding the animals and then waiting for them,” he says. “But horses? Because the track is there, they’re always there. It makes it a lot easier for me.” And Zhang sure does make it look easy, effortlessly capturing the beauty of horses on the track, in their stables and even at horse shows and polo games. (You can see more of his work on his Instagram, @alexzhangny.) His favorite place to shoot? The Saratoga backstretch. “You can see what’s actually happening behind the scenes and how the people work on the horses and interact with their horses,” he says. “You get to know and meet a lot of people. Every time I walk to the backstretch, I pretty much know someone. I know so many people by now and can see all their smiling faces.” 

This summer, Zhang should be able to shoot his own horse on the main track at Saratoga. (East Ave Racing’s partners and trainer Robbie Davis plan on racing Vallelujah when she’s ready.) But Zhang certainly won’t stop going to the Oklahoma after Opening Day. “I just love, on quiet mornings, the sound of horses running,” he says. “The way they move, going 40 miles per hour—you never get tired of it.”  

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