A Life Well Lived

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I’ve worked at the races since I was 18-yrs-old. I’ve had every job on the track minus selling tickets. – During this time you meet some pretty interesting people. Adding to the list was track photographer Pat Lang. – I first met him when I made my way down to get my picture taken for the media guide for Turfway Park. – As I walked in, a man I’ve never met said: “hello parking manager, who’s parking the cars if you’re in here?” – Good question, but I nervously ignored it as I had my shirt and tie all squared away. He cracked jokes with people in the room and asked if I was ready for my close-up? – That was my first intro to Pat. He had a relaxed feel and a Jimmy Buffet swagger without even trying. His dead-pan humor and relaxed nature made everyone feel at home in his little office which was open to the world.

His daughter and partner behind the lens; Emily Lang wrote some beautiful lines about her father on Facebook. – Announcing the passing of a man who made a difference can be difficult. – In my opinion, after reading her words he was more like an onion. After reading about the life of this man words couldn’t begin to sum up the life of such an interesting man. – Most people just plod along and enjoy some ups and downs. – Pat Lang was a citizen of the world and curiously looked at the world from many angles. To say he was one of the good guys is an understatement. He was a rare pearl and we were lucky just to meet him in our travels.

Patrick R. Lang, beloved husband, proud father, loving brother and friend to all who knew him, passed away peacefully November 17, 2017. He was sent off gently, surrounded by his loving family with his best friend by his side.

Pat was a horse racing Track Photographer by trade. After 30 years of making photos from the finish line, he hung up his camera three years ago.

For over three decades, Pat had devoted his career to capturing the winning moments of the horses, trainers, owners and jockeys at River Downs, (New) Latonia which became Turfway Park and Keeneland race courses in Ohio and Kentucky.

Over the course of his career, Pat captured historic, memorable moments of some of racing’s most talented horses; Silver Charm’s and Wild Rush’s Kentucky Cup Classic dead heat at Turfway Park; Spend A Buck’s 15-length Cradle Stakes win at River Downs preceding his Kentucky Derby triumph; Alysheba’s maiden victory; Wise Dan’s maiden win at Turfway Park and graded wins at Keeneland before going on to back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Mile wins; Rachel Alexandra’s first win at Turfway Park; Animal Kingdom’s maiden victory at Turfway Park and his romp in the Spiral Stakes before galloping into history with his Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup wins; . Perfect Drift, Winning Colors, Brass Hat, Catlaunch, Harlan’s Holiday, Street Sense… the list of notable horses that have run into Pat Lang’s frame and across the finish line over the years goes on and on.

Pat also photographed the beginnings, milestones, and comebacks of many careers of racing’s most respected horsemen; jockey Rafael Bejarano’s humble beginnings at River Downs; jockey Julien Leparoux’s rise to fame at Turfway Park; the beginnings of trainer Ken McPeek’s career at River Downs; the start of trainer Dale Romans’ career at Turfway Park. Pat also documented jockey and local legend Perry Ouzts’ 5,000th, then 6,000th, career wins — placing him in a category that only 16 other men on Earth had ever achieved at the time.

“Through his craft, tens of thousands of great horses, trainers, jockeys, and owners have been celebrated,” said Chip Bach, General Manager of Turfway Park. “On a personal level, Pat has been a close friend to all of us and his smile and humor will be missed.”

Apart from the famous horses and nationally recognized trainers and owners, Pat’s warmest memories were the many conversations he had with regular clients and fellow photographers over the years. Often stopping to talk while dropping by the office to pick up their pictures; to grab a handful of peanuts, a cookie, a sucker; or to duck in for some relief from the searing summer heat at River Downs, the brutal winter cold at Turfway Park or the pouring spring and fall rain at Keeneland between races.

“Pat’s door was always open to everyone, whether it be a family of backstretch workers or a Hall of Fame trainer, everyone was greeted with a warm smile and respect and welcomed to the variety of treats and sweets he kept in plentiful stock,” said John Engelhardt, who worked alongside Lang at Keeneland and Turfway Park during the off-season at River Downs. “It was never really work when you were with Pat, more like being part of a comedy sitcom or a Fellini film. There were amazing colorful characters, constant action and laughter everywhere and Pat was the subtle circus ringmaster.”

Pat’s resume prior to his life in horse racing comes as a surprise, even to those who knew him well.

Pat, a New Mexico native, was born in Roswell and grew up in Hagerman. After attending New Mexico State University, he became a radio disc jockey in Las Cruces and was the co-owner of Flip Side Records, a chain of three record stores. Those who listened to his late-night progressive rock show would have known him, not as Pat Lang, but as Billy Pilgrim, a pseudonym lifted from a Kurt Vonnegut protagonist who traveled freely back and forth through time and space.

Pat did use his real name, however, for his second career as a radio journalist and news director for KOBE-AM in Las Cruces, as a TV correspondent for KOAT-TV in Albuquerque and as a reporter and cinematographer for KTSM-TV and radio in El Paso, Texas.

As someone whose career as a photojournalist involved documenting and reporting on people’s individual losses, from fires to accidents, Lang loved his transition to photographing horse racing at River Downs and Turfway Park (at the time Latonia) in 1982.

“Every day I got to photograph winners,” Lang said. “Being there for the wins and achievements, documenting people as they built on their success, for the milestones, even as they grew their families… In most cases, my clients became my friends. You rooted for them daily, on the track and off. It made for a happy career, where every day was better than the last.”

Patrick is survived by his beloved wife Karla of 32 years and his four children; son Jonathan Lang, daughter Emily Lang (Alex Ress), son Graham Lang, stepdaughter Rachel Hale (Michael), sister Barbara Lang-Gaulding (George), brother David Lang (Laura). He was preceded in death by his father Richard in 2001, his mother Rosezella in 2013 and his sister Delores in 2007.

He will be remembered by his family for his kindness, humor and prolific sweet tooth — which he made sure his children inherited by keeping the kitchen stocked with freshly made cakes, cookies, his signature pies, homemade eggnog or whatever he felt like baking that day. His clever and constant witticisms will be deeply missed.

Pat Lang will be remembered for a long time. – He hung up his camera three years ago, and it felt like he never left. – Some people just leave a lasting impression on you. – I’ll miss seeing his photo office filled with visitors. They would range from retired horsemen to a groom looking for a handful of candy and good conversation. All were welcome as his deep raspy voice echoed like a radio professional. He cared. He made you feel welcome. And when the horses were rounding the far turn Pat would slowly stroll toward to the finish line and make it just in time to capture history in the moment. – Thank you, Pat. It was indeed a pleasure to meet you in the travels of life.