Photojournalist Clare Grant ’23 captures all angles at the Kentucky Derby

The Elon graduate and current Courier-Journal intern spent nearly two weeks at Churchill Downs chronicling the lead up and photo finish of the “Run for the Roses.”

Kentucky Oaks patrons cheer as horses run.
Elon alumna Clare Grant ’23 captured this image of attendees enjoying the 2024 Kentucky Oaks, a race for three-year-old fillies held annually the day before the Derby. All photos courtesy of Grant.

In preparation for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby, often called “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” Clare Grant ’23 immersed herself on the hallowed grounds of the country’s most celebrated and watched horse racing event.

“For about two weeks leading up to the Derby, I was basically living at Churchill Downs,” said Grant, on location as a photojournalism intern working for The Courier-Journal and USA Today. “I was waking up at 4 a.m. to get to the barns to capture what life is like on the backside of Churchill Downs – the trainers and staff taking care of the horses, equipment, barns and watching the horses train on the track. It was such a surreal experience.”

Clare Grant stands at Churchill Downs with cameras in hand.
As part of her photojournalism internship working for The Courier-Journal, Grant spent nearly two weeks capturing behind-the-scenes images in advance of the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby.

The 150th Kentucky Derby didn’t disappoint, producing one of the most dramatic finishes in its storied history — three noses at the wire. Ultimately, Mystik Dan was crowned the winner in front of a crowd of 156,000 and another 16.7 million watching on television.

Grant compiled a variety of incredible, behind-the-scenes images leading up to the running of the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, a race for three-year-old fillies held annually the day before the Derby. The quality and depth of the Elon alumna’s work isn’t surprising considering the success she had as a student photographer. As an undergraduate, Grant collected nearly 20 awards, including accolades from the National Press Photographers Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Associate Collegiate Press.

“This past weekend covering the Kentucky Oaks and Derby was an absolute dream come true and doesn’t compare to anything I have experienced before,” Grant said. “It was such a unique experience that outperformed any expectation of it I previously had. The energy of not only the crowd, but also the energy of the horses is so special, and being able to be right on the track with them and feel the power they exert is such an unparalleled feeling.”

While early in her career, Grant has compiled an impressive resume in news media. Prior to her internship with The Courier-Journal, she interned at The Columbus Dispatch and completed a fellowship at The Indianapolis Star. As an undergraduate, the cinema and television arts major was heavily involved with Elon News Network and conducted an internship at The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington.

Grant is scheduled to work another premier sporting event later this month – the PGA Championship will be held at Louisville’s Valhalla Golf Club May 13-19.

For more information about Grant, visit her website,