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Amanda Lee: Fulfilling Childhood Dreams Through Art

Artist Amanda Lee and Champion Three Year Old Filly Malathaat
Amanda Lee and Champion Three Year Old Filly Malathaat. All photos courtesy of Amanda.

The horse racing bug finds a way to bite people even far removed from a track. This was the case for Amanda Lee, who grew up in a state devoid of horse racing but is now completely immersed through her popular watercolor portraits of racehorses.

Amanda was born with an interest in horses, but it was the 2005 film Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story that marked the beginning of her love for horse racing. Then nine-year-old Amanda was absolutely obsessed with the film's story of a race mare recovering from injury to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. She read books inspired by the movie, drew pictures, and walked around listening to the soundtrack on her portable CD player.

Newspaper headlines proclaiming Barbaro's victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby caught Amanda's eye the following year as she was standing in line at a gas station with her parents. That was enough for her to vow to never miss another Kentucky Derby; she kept true to the promise she made herself and was in front of the TV to watch the 2007 'run for the roses'.

“I had a piece of paper I still have to this day, where I wrote down the winners of the undercard races and jotted down each Kentucky Derby contender as they pranced by in the post parade,” Amanda recalled. “I was enthralled. But yet, it still felt so far away, like something I would always have to settle for only seeing on TV.”

Amanda put her entire heart into Barbaro later that year. His warrior-like battle with injury and laminitis affected people around the globe and young Amanda was no exception. She read books and articles about the late Kentucky Derby winner and won contests at school with essays she wrote about his story. He was her first horse racing love.

Her attention to horse racing ebbed and flowed over the years due to her distance from and lack of exposure to the sport. Eventually, Zenyatta came along and sucked her right back in as Barbaro had. Zenyatta enchanted Amanda and her heart broke alongside the rest of the country’s when the mare lost the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2010.

“From that point on, I paid more attention on social media, I tuned in to all the Triple Crown races and Breeder’s Cup races, and tried to get my fill the best I could of this glorious sport from a distance,” Amanda said. “I still was alone in my interest. It was just me, in a horse racing desert, cheering my favorites from afar and wishing there was something closer that I could be a part of.”