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Douglas Lees Wins Top Awards from American Horse Publications

Douglas Lees Wins Top Awards from American Horse Publications

Photos taken at the International Gold Cup take first and second place.

THE PLAINS, VA — For more than 50 years, Warrenton photographer Douglas Lees has been a regular photographer at the Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup. No matter the weather conditions — rain, cold, or heat — Lees is out on the course capturing the day’s main attraction: steeplechase racing.

The Virginia Gold Cup Association has two race meets each year that take place at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA. The Virginia Gold Cup is held annually on the first Saturday in May and the International Gold Cup is held on the fourth Saturday in October. Each event runs seven to nine races throughout the day.

Lees’ photos have been featured locally and nationally in numerous media outlets and he’s won a large number of awards and recognitions. Most recently, he received first and second place in the category of “Freelance Editorial Photograph” at the 2024 American Horse Publications annual awards for two of his photographs taken at the International Gold Cup.

His first place photo, “Flying Through the Water, Steeplethon Race” (see above), captures the horses competing in the signature race of the Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup: the Steeplethon. Horses jump and then gallop through water. In Lees’ photo, the water provides the reflection of the horses and jockeys against a backdrop of beautiful fall foliage. It was taken at the 2023 International Gold Cup and ran in the publication In & Around Horse Country.

Second place went to Lees for his photo “Taking Flight,” also taken at the International Gold Cup, which shows horses sailing through the air over a brush water jump as one jockey, Harrison Beswick, becomes unseated. The shot was taken from below the horses with a remote camera Lees strategically placed just below the brush.

“Taking Flight.”

“The Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup have a great diversity of jumps and opportunities for photographs,” said Lees. “It is a great honor and opportunity to be able to photograph these races.”

“We’re fortunate to have Douglas covering our races,” said Virginia Gold Cup Association Co-Chairman and Director of Racing Al Griffin. Griffin is also president of the National Steeplechase Association. “His ability to capture the excitement and energy of our racing events is exceptional.”

Lees began photographing horses as a young child. In 1966, while getting out of renowned photographer Marshal Hawkins’ vehicle, Lees damaged his mother’s camera. That Christmas, Lees’ mother gave Minolta SR-7 cameras to both him and his dad. Douglas’ photography interests took off from there.

For more information on the Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup, visit

Photos by Douglas Lees.

Posted on: May 29, 2024

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