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A day at the track: Fairmount Park kicks off horse racing season

A jockey rides a horse back past the finish line after a race on opening day at Fairmount Park.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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A jockey rides a horse back past the finish line after a race on opening day at Fairmount Park.

There were 30 minutes until the first race of the day and the locker room at Fairmount Park Racetrack buzzed with activity. Jockeys flipped through race programs and flicked their whips through the air. Television sets perched on cluttered shelves flashed scenes of the track outside, where fans filled the stands for opening day of the Collinsville racetrack's 91st season.

As announcers counted down in anticipation, the jockeys helped each other tape up aching joints and teased each other playfully. Some said a quick prayer.

"In here, we're all buddies," said jockey Uriel Lopez. "But out there – it's all business."

Fairmount Park's season lasts through Labor Day weekend, with races on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday nights. For a six-week period in June and July, there will also be Friday night races.

Javier Tavares watches the track on a locker room TV set while getting ready for the first race of opening day.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Javier Tavares watches the track on a locker room TV set while getting ready for the first race of opening day.
Jockeys head toward their horses after changing between races.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Jockeys head toward their horses after changing between races.

    

Ryleigh McMillen, 11, took the day off from school to watch the races.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Ryleigh McMillen, 11, took the day off from school to watch the races.
Spectators wait for a race to start.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Spectators wait for a race to start.
A horse is led to the paddock before a race.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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A horse is led to the paddock before a race.
Uriel Lopez, Gino Velasquez and Javier Tavares get ready for the first race of the day.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Uriel Lopez, Gino Velasquez and Javier Tavares get ready for the first race of the day.
Azael De Leon helps Uriel Lopez wrap his shoulder as the jockeys prep for opening day.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Azael De Leon helps Uriel Lopez wrap his shoulder as the jockeys prep for opening day.
A Puerto Rican flag decorates Victor Santiago's locker room area.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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A Puerto Rican flag decorates Victor Santiago's locker room area.
Uriel Lopez takes a moment to pray before the start of the first race.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Uriel Lopez takes a moment to pray before the start of the first race.
Some spectators arrived early to study programs before the arrival of crowds.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Some spectators arrived early to study programs before the arrival of crowds.
Visitors shuffled through an indoor area before the start of the races.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Visitors shuffled through an indoor area before the start of the races.
A horse crosses the finish line to win the third race of the day.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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A horse crosses the finish line to win the third race of the day.
A horse parades for spectators before returning to the paddock.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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A horse parades for spectators before returning to the paddock.
Jockeys cross the finish line as they complete the first race of opening day.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Jockeys cross the finish line as they complete the first race of opening day.

Carolina Hidalgo joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as the station’s first visual journalist. She now produces photographs, digital stories and radio features with a focus on issues of race, inequality and immigration. In 2019, she reported from the United States-Mexico border as an International Women’s Media Foundation fellow. In 2018, she was named one of The Lit List’s “30 photographers to watch.” Carolina also volunteers as a mentor with NPR’s Next Generation Radio project. She is a proud native of New York City and a member of Women Photograph and Diversify Photo.

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