Updated on 05/30/2012 5:26PM

Michael J. Marten, Eclipse Award photographer, is dead at 54

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Michael J. Marten
The 1999 Eclipse Award photo: Jockey Frankie Dettori dismounts Daylami after winning the Breeders' Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park. Below right, the 1995 Eclipse Award photo: Thunder Gulch and Gary Stevens break from the gate in the Travers Stakes.

Michael J. Marten, an award-winning photographer whose specialty was Thoroughbred horse racing, died Monday night near his home in Del Mar, Calif. He was 54.

Joanne Nor, his longtime companion, said Tuesday that Marten had been in hospice care and had been suffering from cancer, which was diagnosed last fall.

Marten worked nearly a decade as a freelancer for the Daily Racing Form and was also a photographer for Horsephotos.com. Marten’s work captured both the power and beauty of competition at the races in the afternoon and the charm of life around the barns in the morning.

He was twice selected as the Eclipse Award winner for photography in Thoroughbred racing. In the 1995 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, Marten was positioned along the outside rail and zoomed in on Thunder Gulch, the eventual winner, as the colt leaped out of the starting gate beneath jockey Gary Stevens. Marten won again in 1999, this time for capturing Frankie Dettori’s trademark flying dismount after the jockey won the Breeders’ Cup Turf aboard Daylami at Gulfstream Park.

Thunder GulchMarten was born Feb. 11, 1958, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. His family moved to New York City and settled in the Rosedale section of Queens. He attended the Germaine school of photography and worked in a variety of sports photography jobs, including for the New York Mets, the New York Rangers, and the MSG Network. He earned national recognition when he photographed the American Greco-Roman wrestler Jeff Blatnick after Blatnick won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. One of Marten’s pictures of Blatnick, depicting the wrestler in a prayerlike moment after winning, was picked up by Life Magazine.

Arrangements for a funeral service were not complete as of Tuesday. A memorial service will be held during the summer race meet at Del Mar.