Perception doesn’t match reality with Woods

Getty Images

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – So, a couple bits of Tiger Woods news to share. First, Woods did not make the cut for the new EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour game, which is being unveiled this week at St. Andrews. You will note that the game used to be called “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” but that was before he and EA Sports split up a couple of years ago. And it also was before he dropped to 241st in the world.

But the point here is not that the game is no longer named for him – he’s nowhere to be found inside the game. You can play with 12 real world golfers (Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth among them), but not with Tiger Woods. The company said they only looked at players in the top 100. The last edition of the game included legends like Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan and even Young Tom Morris. There are no legends on the game this year. There is no Tiger Woods.

The other piece of of news? Well, Tiger Woods believes he can win the Open Championship here at the home of golf.

“Absolutely,” he says. And he adds: “I’m hitting the ball much, much more solidly.”

OK, no, it’s not really news that Tiger is talking about winning, about feeling healthy, about hitting the ball way better, about “getting his feels back.” That has been more or less a constant refrain for a couple of years now, along with some, well, let’s call them rose-colored memories.

Woods memory: “I hit the ball great at Greenbrier … and as bad as I putted that week, I was only four shots out of a playoff.”

Actuality: Well, to be exact, six shots out of a four-way playoff. And in a five-way tie for 32nd place.

Woods memory: “You know, I had some pretty apparent flaws in my technique. That’s one of the reasons why I shut it down after Torrey and Pebble and consequently I was able to turn things around, and I had a chance to win the Masters this year.”

Actuality: Woods was nine shots off the lead the first day at Augusta, 12 shots off the lead after the second round, 10 shots off the lead going into Sunday, and he finished 13 shots back. So, you know …

Woods memory: “(At Greenbrier) I hit the ball the best I’ve hit it in probably two years. … It was the first time I’ve led proximity to the hole with my iron play in I don’t know how many years. So that was a very good sign.”

Actuality: Well, it certainly IS a good sign that Tiger Woods led the field in that somewhat obscure “proximity to the hole” stat and it’s a good sign he is hitting his irons closer. But how good is it really? According to the PGA Tour, here are the leaders in “proximity to the hole” the last few PGA Tour events:

  • John Deere: Tom Gillis and Danny Lee (tied for third in the tournament)
  • Greenbrier Classic: Tiger Woods (tied for 32nd)
  • Travelers Championship: Tom Hoge (tied for 64th)
  • FedEx St. Jude Classic: Jason Gore (tied for 29th)
  • The Memorial: Russell Knox (tied for 18th)
  • AT&T Byron Nelson Classic: Vijay Singh (tied for 39th)

So, maybe it’s not THAT good a sign.

This, though, is how Tiger Woods’ mind seems to work. He craves positivity. He hungers for good signs, even when they are hard to see. There’s an image we build of many of the world’s most dominant athletes – Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Albert Pujols, Serena Williams – that they feed off negativity and are fueled by doubters. It’s probably true for many of them.

But it seems to me that, no matter how much people try to build him up that way, Tiger Woods is not like that at all. He does not get pumped up on doubts. He does not play to prove people wrong. He feeds on good feelings. He is driven by optimism and certainty and what was once an unshakeable confidence that the putt was going in. There’s a great story about him from a few years ago: He was playing in an American Express sponsored exhibition with some fans at Oakmont. Someone asked if he would hit a shot out of the Church Pews bunker. Woods refused.

“Will you teach us how to do it?” someone else asked.

“Hit it over there,” Woods said, pointing toward the fairway.

Some people laughed, but he was not joking. The bunker was a negative. Tiger Woods won 14 major championships and played golf at a level no one had ever reached in part because he did not let negatives into mind. He knew he was the best. His opponents knew he was the best. The fans knew he was the best. He lived inside a cocoon of conviction, and bunkers had no place inside that cocoon. When he won at St. Andrews in 2000, shooting 19 under and winning by eight shots, he did not hit a golf ball into a bunker all week.

So while it has been alternately comical and poignant listening to Tiger Woods try to make happy news of his decline – with weekly repetitions of “I’m not far off,” and “I made progress,” and “I hit it better but just didn’t make any putts” – it is also perfectly in line with the attitude of the young Tiger Woods. He never felt like he was out of a tournament. He always felt like, in the end, he would win. This is how he is wired. He still believes that good things will happen.

“I know some of you guys think I’m buried and done,” Woods said with a little smile. “But I’m still right here in front of you.”

Will good things finally happen for Tiger Woods? Well, this is the week to find out. He finally has everything pointing in at least an optimistic direction. He seems to actually be healthy and feeling good. While it’s easy to overstate how well he played at Greenbrier compared with other professionals, he did finish off with his first bogey-free round in almost two years. And this is legendary St. Andrews, a place where, more often than not, legends win. Jack Nicklaus won twice at St. Andrews, Nick Faldo won here, Sam Snead won here, Seve Ballesteros won here. And, of course, Woods won here twice.

Also: The Open Championship bows to experience in a way that the other major championships do not. In the last 10 years, no 40-year-old has won the Masters, U.S. Open or PGA Championship. But three 40-somethings have won the Open Championship (Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson) and Tom Watson almost won it at age 59. Tiger’s not 40 yet (he turns 40 in December) but his golfing body is much older than 40. Perhaps there’s something about the wind and the bad bounces and ever-changing weather patterns that evens things up and offers older and more experienced a fighting chance.

Whatever the case: This is about as good a chance as Woods is likely to have for a while. Maybe the stars really are aligning. Odds on Woods are dropping in British betting parlors – BetFair, for instance, has him as a better bet than four of the world’s top-10 players, including No. 3 Bubba Watson. Several people, including Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie and golf-loving comedian Norm Macdonald, have come out this week to say Woods can win.

And, of course, we know where Tiger Woods stands on the subject.

“Retirement?” he said incredulously when asked if, at his worst moment, he considered giving the game up. “I don’t have my AARP card yet, so I’m a ways from that. … I’m still young. I’m not 40 yet. … I’m hitting it well. I’m ready. I’m excited.”

Well, he’s been ready and excited before. Now Woods needs to go out there and actually play well and get himself into contention. And he has to do it for real because Woods is no longer an option on a video game.

2023 NFL Playoffs AFC, NFC Championship Round Schedule: Dates, start times, how to watch/live stream info for today’s games


The 2023 NFL Playoffs have been filled with nothing short of excitement! The action continues this week with the Championship Round on Sunday, January 29. First, at 3:00 PM ET Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers will head to Lincoln Financial Field to take on Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Then at 6:30 PM ET Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

See below for the full AFC, NFC Championship Round schedule as well as additional information on how to watch each game.

Click here for the full 2023 NFL Playoffs Schedule

Conference Championship Round Schedule:

Sunday, January 29

NFC Championship Game:

San Francisco 49ers vs Philadelphia Eagles – 3:00 p.m. ET on Fox

  • Where: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

AFC Championship Game:

Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs – 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS

  • Where: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri

RELATED: Brock Purdy, Jalen Hurts met in a 2019 college football classic

2023 Divisional Round Scores and Recap:

Jaguars (4) vs Chiefs (1)

Giants (6) vs Eagles (1)

Bengals (3) vs Bills (2

Cowboys (5) vs 49ers (2)

What 4 teams are in the NFL playoffs?

The San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, and Kansas City Chiefs.

Which teams have been eliminated from the 2023 NFL Playoffs?

The Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys have all been eliminated from the 2023 NFL playoffs.

RELATED: FMIA Divisional – Tales Of Outsmarting, Outplaying, And Outbuilding The Other Guys

NFL Super Bowl History:

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Playoffs, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

Nevada Senate vote on proposed A’s stadium in Las Vegas extended until next week

Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Nevada Senate adjourned Thursday without voting on a financing bill for a proposed $1.5 billion Las Vegas Strip stadium for the Oakland Athletics, extending the special legislative session into the next week amid negotiations over whether to contribute $380 million in public funding to the project.

The measure can still be amended by lawmakers, and if it passes the Senate it would still need approval from the Assembly before going to the desk of Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, who has expressed support for it. Both the state Senate and Assembly are adjourned until Monday.

In a hearing that began Wednesday and stretched into the early morning hours Thursday, lawmakers peppered tourism officials and a representative from a firm partnering with the ball club with questions about the feasibility and benefits of financing such a deal.

Public funds for the stadium would mainly come from $180 million in transferable tax credits and $120 million in county bonds. Backers have pledged that the creation of a special tax district around the proposed stadium would generate enough money to pay off those bonds and interest. The plan would not directly raise taxes.

The A’s would not owe property taxes for the publicly owned stadium. Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, would also contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

A’s representatives and some tourism officials say a deal would further grow Las Vegas’ developing sports scene and act as an economic engine, but a growing chorus of economists and some lawmakers warn that the project would bring minimal benefits for the hefty public price tag.

For 50 years, this image has defined Secretariat’s famed Triple Crown. Who took it?


Four days before the running of last month’s Kentucky Derby, a story was posted on under my byline, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Secretariat’s 1973 Triple Crown, and more specifically, his climactic, 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes in a time of two minutes, 24 seconds, still two seconds faster than any other thoroughbred has run the race. The story was, as the writer says in Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter, “… the kind of story I enjoy…” A joyful story. Secretariat and his Belmont are cultural touchstones of stunning durability and power in modern American sports, almost bereft of negativity. As I wrote in the piece, only the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s gold medal – the “The Miracle On Ice” – is in the same league for evoking a certain type of emotional response. If you can find the right entry point, and you know your way around a keyboard, Big Red is storytelling gold. Check, and check.

To tell the story of Secretariat’s 50th, I chose a narrative device. We writers love terms like device, because it purports to impose order on the process, as if we are software engineers or carpenters, meticulously building something, rather than typists, desperately trying to corral facts, ideas, quotes, transitions, word length, always right on the edge of losing control of the whole thing. My device was to feature five people who, in various ways, both in life and beyond, had perpetuated the story of Secretariat’s 1973 season and Belmont. Owner Penny (Tweedy) Chenery, jockey Ron Turcotte (the only one still living), race caller Chic Anderson, journalist Bill Nack, photographer Bob Coglianese. With help, I got to the right people, collected strong quotes, added some literary flourishes and in general, didn’t mess up a good thing. The story, as we also like to say, holds up, and should hold up for a long time.

Except one part could be wrong altogether. At the very least, it’s in doubt.

The last character in the piece was Coglianese, the former New York Racing Association track photographer who died last December at the age of 88, and is credited with taking the most famous photograph from the 1973 Belmont Stakes, a picture that was instantly iconic when first published and grew in stature as time pushed it further into the haze of the past, until it became almost mythic, and which will be explosively shared and published this week, half a century on from the greatest horse racing performance in history:


My angle on Coglianese was this: He was not an artist, he was a workaday grinder who on that day in 1973 just went to work, took the same shots he always took – “My father shot every race the same way,” said Coglianese’s son, and only child, Adam, who is now the NYRA track photographer, and who I interviewed  — and happened to capture one of the most evocative sports images in history. I gilded Coglianese’s story with details of how he might have gone about his day, knowing many of the details of his job and extrapolating others, and I qualified the telling with two strategic insertions of the word likely, just in case.

So it was on that second Saturday in June of 1973, that Bob left the family home in Searington, 10 miles east of Belmont Park in Long Island’s Nassau County, and drove to work. He likely shot not only the Belmont Stakes that day, but all seven of the races that preceded it, and even the one that followed. Ten or 15 minutes before the 5:38 post time, he likely walked across the Belmont loam, climbed the four or five steps to the top of the green, wood, platform, and pre-focused his lens on a point near the finish line. He then waited until Secretariat entered his frame and punched his shutter. The horse, the other horses… lord knows, the crowd. All right there.

More practically: Bob Coglianese took one of the greatest and most meaningful sports pictures in history by going to work and doing his job.

It was a simple description, lyrically tight and sweet. The real story is almost certainly more complex – a story that is not only about the power of a picture to convey a message larger than itself and to reach into a viewer’s soul, but also about the force of a half-truth that lives across time, and the eternal riddle of who actually owns a piece of art.

Background: The photo had existed for 50 years, always with Coglianese’s authorship attached. Photo by Bob Coglianese. Sometimes a copyright symbol or NYRA reference was included, but always Coglianese’s name, and never anyone else’s. To my knowledge, it had never been publicly suggested that Coglianese did not take the picture (or that he didn’t own it, which is another issue; keep reading). I had met and spoken with Coglianese in the 1970s, and seen him in the ensuing years; he was an actual human in my experience. When the internet was born, accelerating photo sharing – and piracy – I was among those who, when the photo popped up without credit, would add Coglianese’s name to a retweet and scold the originator.

And this: In 2018, when he was in his mid-80’s, Coglianese gave an interview to the NYRA press office and that was quoted in a Daily Racing Form story at the time of Coglianese’s death. “It was a big race, it was the Belmont Stakes, and there was a photo stand over there and I was on it, shooting the race and it just so happened I got that shot,” Coglianese said. The headline said Track photographer Bob Coglianese, shot famed Secretariat photo, dies at 88. Just last week, NYRA published a story in which the second sentence of the second paragraph reads: “The iconic Bob Coglianese shot of jockey Ron Turcotte peering over his left shoulder to peek at immortality.”

Nevertheless, it’s possible Coglianese did not take the picture.

And that a man named Harry Kaplan did.

Or even somebody else altogether.

On the day after my Secretariat-50 story was posted, three Tweets appeared in my Twitter feed from two people under the names Barry Kaplan and Mike Kaplan, both claiming that the famous photo had been shot not by Coglianese, but by their father, Harry Kaplan, who apparently worked with (or for, it wasn’t clear, at first) Coglianese and in general complaining that Coglianese took credit for others’ work. (On this point, again, keep reading). The poster named “Mike Kaplan,” under the handle @AirForceMike, also posted a very long comment – a screed, really — on my story on the NBCSports website.

Like most writers working in the era of social media and comment portals, I try to hew to some sort of policy: Humbly thank or at least “like” compliments, and ignore nasty criticism. (Social media in the media space overflows with meanness, cruelty and various forms of “owning”; it’s not a nice place and sharing content there is a deal with the devil). Thoughtful criticism is a grey area, because engaging can be useful, but also a time suck. The best policy is that less is more. But something about the Kaplans’ responses had the scent of possibility, if only because in my experience a lot of bodies can lead to a single photograph. I couldn’t shake the notion that even if I had not made a literal mistake (for instance if the credit on the photo is legally accurate), I may have over-simplified a truth, and embellished it for narrative value.

I texted Adam Coglianese from a trailer in the NBC compound at Churchill Downs, on the day before the Kentucky Derby, Friday May 5. We went back and forth and I asked Adam directly if his father took the picture. His response: “Bob Coglianese was the photographer.” He also said, “Harry used to work for my father. Left on bad terms.”

On May 17, I was at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore to cover the Preakness. Hours before the race, I ran into Leonard Lusky on the ground floor of the Pimlico grandstand. Lusky is a central figure in the Secretariat story: He has been the publicist for Penny Chenery and Ron Turcotte (for my story, he helped me arrange interviews with both Turcotte and Kate Tweedy, Penny’s daughter), and runs the website, which he helped Chenery acquire. Lusky also helped Bob Coglianese sell copies of his photo, which Turcotte has signed thousands of times, and now helps Adam Coglianese do likewise. I started to ask Lusky about the Kaplans’ claim and Lusky jumped in. “I know what you’re going to say,” he said. “There might be something to that.”

Bob Coglianese started at NYRA in 1952 at age 18, working in the photo department for his uncle, Michael Sirico; Coglianese took over the department in 1962 and held that position until his retirement in 2013, when his son ascended to the job. It’s true that many photographers worked for Bob during those 51 years, and that Harry Kaplan was one of those photographers. Born Sylvan Harry to Jacob and Jenny Kaplan of Coney Island, Brooklyn on Christmas Eve, in 1927, Harry was raised in Brooklyn, briefly served in the Army at the very end of World War II and according to stories he told family members, traveled frequently to pre-Castro Cuba in his 20s while working as a bartender at a lounge in Brooklyn. Sometime in the 1960s, he landed at the racetrack, as a bettor, owner of some average horses, and eventually as a photographer, and stayed there until approximately the mid-1980s.

Official track photography is only occasionally art, and more often a daily grind. This was more acutely true in the 1970s, when photography was more labor-intensive than today. “Being a track photographer is an assembly line,” says Skip Dickstein, who has shot racing for more than four decades, much of it for the Albany Times Union, but also for many national outlets. “It can be mind-numbing work, day after day, all year.” According to people who were present, there was a clear division of labor in the NYRA photo operation in the pre-digital age of the 70s and 80s.

First, Bob Coglianese was the boss; it was his operation. Second, Coglianese’s primary emphasis was on photographing the connections of the winning horse in each race, in the winners’ circle. This was important because he could then sell those photos to owners, trainers, friends. “The winners’ circle was the most important thing to Bob,” says Chris Scherf, NYRA media relations director from 1979-’82 after starting at NYRA in ’78. “His big thing was getting winners’ circle pictures of the owners and selling them. That was his money-maker. Bob also policed the winners’ circle, very much.”

Richard Eng, who was the NYRA photo services coordinator from 1981-85 and worked closely with both Coglianese and Kaplan, says, “The winners’ circle was an ATM for Bob. That’s where he would shoot.”

Others on Coglianese’s staff would shoot elsewhere, in particular during the feature race of the afternoon. Karen (Kivel) Rice worked for Coglianese – and with Kaplan – from 1979-’87. “Eighth race, most days I would set up a remote camera under the rail, Harry would go up on the stand.”

Steve Haskin, a longtime racing journalist who was often at NYRA tracks dating back to the late 1960s and was especially present during Secretariat’s Triple Crown, says, “Coglianese always shot races from the outside rail and then shot the winners’ circle. Harry and the other photographers would shoot from inside.” (In this description, “outside rail” means on the grandstand side; “inside” means on the infield side.)

It’s clear on the most basic level that the famous Secretariat photo was shot from the infield side of the inside rail. And Coglianese said in his 2018 interview that he took the picture from a stand in roughly that position.

Karen (Kivel) Rice: “In my time in New York, personally I never saw Bob cross the track. Not once. He would be at the outside rail, and then the winners’ circle. Now Secretariat was before my time. So I don’t know about that day.”

Richard Eng: “I was not there in 1973, but in my time at NYRA, I never saw Bob up on that stand, and honestly, I would have a very hard time envisioning Bob going up onto that stand.”

Nevertheless, It is possible that on June 9, 1973, sensing a historic moment, Coglianese walked across the track and onto the stand. Clear photographs of the finish stand on that day seem to be exceedingly rare. Last Friday (June 3) I came across a wide shot of the finish of the Belmont Stakes on the website of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. The digital image was scanned from a 3X5-inch snapshot taken at the Belmont by then-Gov. Linwood Holton from his seat above and just short of the finish line. I requested a high resolution scan of the image from the museum. This is that scan:

And this is that same photo, zoomed in on only the photo stand:

I sought analysis from two photographers: Former Sports Illustrated and Time, Inc shooter Neil Leifer, who is widely regarded as among the best photographers in history; and Simon Bruty, also a colleague of mine at SI, with more than four decades’ worth of sports photography experience at AllSport and SI, and one of the most accomplished modern-day shooters. Both have shot many major horse races. I showed both men the larger photo, the tighter version on the photo stand, the famous Secretariat photo, and one other Bob Coglianese-credited photo from that same Belmont for comparison. This one:

And I asked them to estimate, in their opinion, where the famous photo was shot from.

Leifer: “First of all, the famous picture, the black-and-white picture with the other horses in the background, that was not taken from the ground. That’s obvious. And then you have the color photo, which looks completely different (from the famous shot), and is clearly much higher, so that was probably from the top platform, which means [the famous photo] was taken from that first level. Also, in New York, the official track photographer would have had the prime position with an unimpeded view.”

Bruty: “If you look at the [famous] photograph, it’s very close to the rail. So the person shooting that image would have to been on the very inside position on the stand. And on the middle level, because from the top, you wouldn’t be able to get the other horses in the image.”

There are five people shooting from the railing of the first step on the riser. From left (furthest from the track) to right: 1) A heavyset person in dark clothing with either white hair or balding, 2) A person with bare legs, 3) A person also with either white or light grey hair or balding, in a loose-fitting orange or brown jacket and light-colored shirt, 4) A person with greying hair and a light-colored jacket (perhaps a sport coat) and 5) A person with either white hair, or a white hat, leaning out toward the railing. (There are three other people of note: Behind No. 5, a person in white pants on their knees, and further back, a person bent 90 degrees at the waist in a white shirt who does not obviously appear to be taking a picture. Lastly, there is a person with longish, flowing dark hair, halfway between the levels, either very tall or standing on something).

Based on Leifer’s and Bruty’s analysis, the most likely shooter of the famous photo is either 3, 4, or 5. (Most likely, but not certain). Leifer, Bruty, and Dickstein all said that the photo was definitely taken with a hand-held camera, and not a remote setup.

These are undated photos of Bob Coglianese:

These are undated photos of Harry Kaplan.

Note: Kaplan at far right

I showed the zoomed photo to Haskin, who knew both men in 1973. He said: “Bob is not in that picture.” I showed the photo to Rice, who knew both men from ’79-’87 and she said, “Agreed.” Eng said, “Bob C. had black hair and a stocky build. No one on either level resembles him to me.” From my perspective, knowing what Coglianese looked like just a few years later (1977-’78), in addition to knowing that at the very least he went across the racetrack infrequently, the photo creates doubt in my mind as to whether he took the picture. Is Harry Kaplan in that photo, shooting from one of the prime positions? Haskin felt that No. 4 could be Harry Kaplan. He is the right size, and in the right position. Both Mike and Barry Kaplan felt certain that No. 4 was their father, but they have a skin in the game, which is mitigating. The photo is not sharp enough to establish certainty.

On Tuesday morning, an NBC colleague found an archival photo from Getty images, which shows Secretariat just past the finish line, and the side of the photo riser, fairly sharp in the background. Person 4 is clearly visible in a sport coat.

105th Belmont Stakes, Belmont Park
(Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

I sent the new photo to Haskin, who looked at it and also shared with his wife, Joan Sudol Haskin, who worked at NYRA as a public relations coordinator from 1979 to 1981. “Sure looks like Harry to me, and my wife agrees it does look like him. But being from the back, you can’t be 100 percent positive. I would go 90 to 95 percent. It sure ain’t Bob.” Once again both Kaplans were certain the man in the sportcoat was their father. Again, they have an interest in seeing that. Scherf, however, said, “Can’t really tell from behind. Doubt it’s Harry and actually, from the posture, body shape and stance, it would look more like Bob. Just can’t tell.”

We found another Getty photo later Tuesday, this one at the start of the race.

Secretariat, 1973 Belmont Stakes
(Photo by Herb Scharfman /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Person 4 is in a more relaxed posture, and party obscured by Person 5. In this image, Person 4 seems to fairly clearly have greyish hair and light skin. It would be difficult to make the case that it’s Coglianese, who as a young man had black hair and skin that was tones darker than pale. Scherf amended his analysis: “From that angle it does not look like Bob. I can’t say that it’s Harry, though.”

A day earlier, Eng thought Person 3, in the orange and yellow, might be Kaplan, but upon seeing two more photos, said, “[Person 3] is not Harry. He has a bald spot, and Harry had a full head of hair. To me, of all the people on the second step, the one wearing the sportcoat [Person 4] is the only one who resembles Harry. He has the right build to resemble Harry, too.” The two Getty photos increased the likelihood that Kaplan was on the stand in what Leifer and Bruty described as the mostly likely position to capture the famous photo. However, neither photo eliminates the possibility that Coglianese was somewhere else on the stand.

On Monday afternoon, I contacted Adam Coglianese, sent him the photo riser picture from Virginia and explained that my reporting suggested at the very least uncertainty about who took the photo. I asked if he wanted to say anything further, or if he chose, to point out his father in the photo. His response: “I have no comment. That picture is blurry. I have no comment. It’s been known that Bob took that picture for 40 or 50 years, and now people are coming out of the woodwork, and questioning it? It’s irrational. Sure, Bob’s forte was on the outside of the racetrack, but he was 38 years old in 1973 and people are saying he never went across? Nobody ever questioned that my father took that photo, and now? This guy, Harry Kaplan, left on very bad terms with my father. So I’m going to have no comment.”

On Tuesday of this week, I asked Patrick McKenna, NYRA Vice President for Communications, if NYRA had any pictures that show the photo stand on Belmont Day, 1973. McKenna said, “There are no photos responsive to this inquiry.”

Bob Coglianese is on record as saying that he physically held a camera in his hand and took the famous photo. Harry Kaplan is not, and he died of leukemia at age 82 in 2010, but others say he often claimed to have shot the photo. “He told me about it, he was proud, said it was one of his best photos,” says Rice. Peggy Kaplan, who was Harry’s fourth wife and married to him for 18 years when he died, says, “He would talk about that picture all the time. He said he was on a stepladder at the rail when he took it.” (He was on a riser, not a stepladder, which could be either a red flag, or just semantics, because the riser had a construction-site quality to it). Kaplan’s sons say they talked frequently with their father about the Secretariat photo, especially as it became more praised, but Kaplan never wanted to seek credit.

There is a good reason for this: At the time of Kaplan’s employment, and through most of Bob Coglianese’s tenure at NYRA, it was understood that any photo that left the office would bear Coglianese’s credit. This was then common in the photography world, and is not uncommon today. It’s not clear if Coglianese’s employees signed a contract that handed all rights to Coglianese, but their understanding of the arrangement was implicit. “There were times when I would go up to the press box and have lunch with Harry and a young girl that worked with them [probably Karen Kivel Rice, given the timing], and they were very resentful that Bobby would take all the credit for the photos,” says Scherf. “But they were also resigned to it. It was just human nature to complain, like, you know, ‘It sucks to be in this position.’”

On big race days, Coglianese would often bring in extra shooters; all of their photos would be credited to Coglianese. For instance, there are photos from several angles on Belmont Day, 1973, all with Bob Coglianese credits, and of course he could not have physically shot all of them. This brings into play the possibility that neither Coglianese nor Kaplan shot the iconic photo, but somebody else together. It’s challenging to fully eliminate options).

Kaplan had swallowed some hard times by then: His first wife, Ruth, had died of cancer when their sons were just nine and 10. He was grinding out a quiet living at the racetrack and did not seem to be seeking conflict. “Harry was mild-mannered, a gentleman, a nice older man,” says Rice. “He had experienced some pain in his life. He was frustrated, but he understood the situation.”

Richard Eng: “I spent a lot of time with Harry. Even if he was frustrated, he was a loyal soldier.”

It’s possible that Bob Coglianese did not physically take the famous photo, but the credit on the print – Photo by Bob Coglianese – is correct in perpetuity. Both of these things can be true. Coglianese owned the photo and the right to put his name on it.

That reality is part of a very murky corner of the photography universe, which is far too complex to explore fully here. But in short, it is not uncommon for photographers to employ – or hire – assistants to aid in covering a sprawling event. Sometimes those assistants do nothing more than push a button on a remote camera that’s been fully set up by the photographer. “Some of my pictures, the neighborhood garbage collector could have hit the button,” says Leifer. “Those are my pictures.” (Leifer also said, “Some of my most famous photos, I did not have a camera in my hands”).

Bruty says, “I’ve always believed that if I conceive the shot, and I set up the camera, and then I have somebody run a wire from the camera, and somebody presses a button on the end of that wire, that photo is my credit.”

But there is another level, in which a photographer puts a camera in the hands of his assistant, and the assistant takes the picture. Bruty says, “Personally I think that crosses the line. At that point, you’re asking them to use a skill. I know that pushing a button at the right time is a skill. That person deserves a credit for that photo. That’s what I believe.” Dickstein, the racing specialist, says, “I’m at the point where my assistant does a lot of the physical work in setting up remotes, because I can’t do it anymore, so now I give him a shared credit on those photos. Because it’s the right thing.”

Leifer, again, has a complicating thought. When I asked him if his famous photos taken by others had been remotes or actual hand-held cameras, he said, “Both.” But he said that before handing a camera to an assistant, he would “tape the focus, tape everything, leaving nothing to chance, so they can’t screw it up.” It is a complex world. It’s highly unlikely that Bob Coglianese did more than send his assistants out with orders to shoot the finish. “We knew what our job was,” says Rice. But they also knew they would not get credit unless Coglianese conferred it, and that was not the way the industry operated.

Harry Kaplan left NYRA in 1976 to work for an Ohio-based company that took school pictures. According to Barry Kaplan, the company folded. Harry went back to NYRA for at least six more years. Perhaps that was not the “bad terms” parting that Adam Coglianese referenced, because Kaplan was rehired. When Harry left again in the early-mid 80’s, (those could have been bad terms, it’s uncertain) he moved back to Ohio and eventually became the official track photographer at Beulah Park Race Track in Grove City, Ohio, several rungs on the racing ladder below NYRA. He worked there for about two decades (the exact duration is uncertain) and almost until his death on June 4, 2010.

A few months before Harry died, Mike Kaplan visited his father in Grove City and brought a copy of the famous Secretariat photo, and a Sharpie, and asked Harry to write his name on it. Bob Coglianese signed the photo several times in his life, including some valuable “triple signings” that also included Chenery’s and Turcotte’s signatures. This was the only one that Harry Kaplan signed.


Tim Layden is writer-at-large for NBC Sports. He was previously a senior writer at Sports Illustrated for 25 years.