Brianna Vitt
Brianna Vitt

Each year, the Kentucky Derby draws about 160,000 people to Churchill Downs and 15 million television viewers, most of whom are no doubt enamored by the tradition, the grandeur, the revelry and, of course, the majestic horses.

One of UofL’s students will have a unique perspective of – and access to – those athletes from behind the lens of an “official” event camera. Brianna Vitt is set to graduate on May 11 with a degree in Marketing and another in Equine Business. She’ll spend the weekend prior to commencement working the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby as part of the track’s official photography company, Coady Photography.

Vitt initially discovered photography during her junior year of high school, which quickly led her toward horse photography specifically.

“I had a wonderful high school photography teacher named Mrs. Drexler and she taught me dark room and film photography. I got into horse photography after meeting one of her closest friends at the track – Holly Smith – who is a freelance photographer, and she inspired me to start taking photos of the horses at the track,” Vitt said.

Smith introduced her to Kurtis Coady, one of the third-generation photographers who leads the family-owned company.

“He has given me many great opportunities to sharpen my horse racing photography skills,” Vitt said.

This will mark her second Derby shooting for Coady Photography, but she expects her experience will be much different this time around.

“Last year, I was involved in shooting ‘scenic’ photos, but this year I’m shooting the finish of the races and the celebration,” Vitt said. “I’ll be in the heart of all the action, which will be really exciting.”

Vitt will use this experience to her advantage as she pursues her post-graduate career goals, which include working in thoroughbred training and sales.

“I am very passionate about the thoroughbred industry and have really enjoyed meeting all of the great people in the business,” she said. “Networking and passion have allowed me to land this gig.”

Prior to chasing her post-graduate dreams, however, Vitt is looking forward to soaking in the opportunity in front of her. 

“The Kentucky Derby is my state’s trademark and I am a total Kentucky girl by heart,” Vitt said. “Horse racing is in my blood and it’s really an amazing opportunity to capture the history that goes with the historical Churchill Downs.”


Alicia Kelso
Alicia Kelso is the director of social media and digital content. She joined UofL in 2015 as director of communications at the Brandeis School of Law. She also serves as a senior contributor at, writing about the restaurant industry, which she has covered since 2010. Her work has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine.