Secretariat images by Tony Leonard released

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Associated Press

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 5:02 AM

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — After years of uncertainty about what would happen to the extensive collection of the late equine photographer Tony Leonard, the first project has emerged.

It comes in the form of a 40th anniversary calendar commemorating the 1973 Triple Crown Winner Secretariat. The 20-month calendar includes some images in print for the first time, and one of Secretariat at Belmont that is one of Leonard's best-known images, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1afgp5Y ).

In nearly 50 years as an equine photographer, Leonard captured hundreds of thoroughbreds. Besides Secretariat, his images included Northern Dancer, Seattle Slew and Barbaro. Leonard died in 2012 at the age of 89 in a Lexington nursing home.

The fate of his 500,000 negatives had been in question when a Kentucky court made Leonard and his wife, Adelle Bergantino, wards of the state in 2009. It took a year for the couple and their relatives to end the state's control of the collection.

Shortly before Leonard died, the collection was purchased by businessman Bobby Shiflet and two men in the thoroughbred industry, John Adger and David Sorrell. A company was formed called the Tony Leonard Collection LLC.

Collection officials said they spent much of 2012 archiving Leonard's more than 40 years of negatives and prints. Among the first works to stand out were photos from the 15 years Leonard spent following Secretariat, said Shiflet.

The $25 calendar "is kind of like a book," he said. "It's got so much information about Secretariat and about Tony, but mainly about Secretariat ... It was a good starting project."

Shiflet, who worked with Leonard on projects, owns Frames on Main Gallery, an art gallery and custom frame shop in Paris. Adger, of Houston, is a thoroughbred owner and breeder and was the bloodstock and racing manager for Stonerside Stable. Sorrell, of Lexington, was vice president and controller at Stonerside and is finance manager of Darley, which bought Stonerside five years ago.

The mission of the Tony Leonard Collection LLC is to ensure that Leonard's "legacy is preserved intact for posterity, to provide access to his body of work, and to keep the memory of the magnificent creatures he immortalized alive for future generations to enjoy," according to a news release from the Tony Leonard Collection.

The 2012 deal regarding the sale of the photo and negative collection was approved by a Fayette Court overseeing the conservatorship of Leonard's assets. In an addition to the purchase price, the terms of the sale of the collection included that a monthly payment would be made for the care of Leonard's widow, according to Sorrell.

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