NTWAB Releases Annual Awards Nominees

Posted Aug. 9, 2015

Without further ado, here are the distinguished nominees for the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters annual major awards. The awards will be presented at the annual dinner gala on Oct. 28 at Marriott Griffin Gate in Lexington, Ky. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Voting extended to Aug. 19 at 9:00 p.m. ET.)

1. JIM MCKAY AWARD (Broadcasting excellence, either career or in one season)

A. Heywood Hale Broun, nicknamed “Woodie”, commanded the English language working on thoroughbred racing telecasts for CBS, though his distinctive moustache and attention-grabbing sports coats served as his best-known trademarks. The fan of racing carried a picture of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat with him. Of Big Red’s Preakness Stakes win, Broun said: “So Secretariat stands on the edge of a Triple Crown, on tiptoe. Although this afternoon there were times he didn’t seem so much on tiptoe as flying slightly above the earth, like one of those horses ancient Greek gods used to ride when in a hurry to get back to Olympus.”

B. Tom Hammond is best known as host of NBC’s Triple Crown race coverage as well as the Breeders’ Cup. Although NBC hired him on what was expected to be a one-time basis for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup, his knowledge of the sport and his conversational style led the network to greatly expand his duties. Hammond has won two Eclipse Awards; he also earned an Emmy Award for his coverage of the 1992 Breeders’ Cup. He also announced at thoroughbred auctions. He is a member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, and the Hall of Distinguished Alumni at the University of Kentucky, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in equine genetics.

C. Dave Johnson is the host of Down the Stretch on SiriusXM, but is best known as the longtime announcer of the Triple Crown races for ABC Sports, each highlighted by his catchphrase of “and DOWN the stretch they come.” The catchphrase made him an occasional guest on the Late Show with David Letterman. Johnson’s career started at Cahokia Downs and included work everywhere from Fairmount Park to Hialeah Park, Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga, the Meadowlands and Santa Anita Park.

2. JOE PALMER AWARD (Long and meritorious service to racing)

A. Alice Chandler emerged as one of the leading women in the history of the industry after founding Mill Ridge Farm in 1962 with four broodmares. Mill Ridge bred, raised or sold 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given and Breeders’ Cup winners Artie Schiller, Johar, Round Pond and Sweet Catomine, among others. Chandler chaired the University of Kentucky Equine Research Foundation and served as president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association as well as other prominent positions. She received an Eclipse Award of Merit for lifetime achievement in 2009.

B. Cathy Schenck, the head librarian at Keeneland Library, has been a tremendous asset to journalists, authors, historians and countless others seeking information for various projects. She has the uncanny ability to make time for everyone. She holds a master’s degree in library science from the University of Kentucky and has worked at the library since 1978. She also plays a key role during sales as supervisor of the repository, which makes digital x-rays of sale horses available to veterinarians for inspection. The Library received a Special Eclipse Award in 2002 for its many contributions to racing.

C. Jack Wolf. Jack and his wife, Laurie, began owning thoroughbreds in 2000. Their early success encouraged them to form partnerships in the name of Starlight Racing beginning in 2007. Jack may be best known as the founder of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which accredits facilities that care for retired runners and raises funds for them. The work of the TAA, which has already provided a well-deserved retirement for a tremendous number of horses, was saluted with a special Eclipse Award in 2014. The Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners honored Wolf as Horseman of the Year in 2013.

3. WALTER HAIGHT AWARD (Career excellence in turf writing)

A. Matt Hegarty is one of the exceptionally few turf writers who follow and understand the complex and nuanced minutia of a myriad of industry and regulatory entities across the nation, and even globally. His specialty is the watchdog journalism that reminds the industry and sport that someone is paying attention. Hegarty’s skill is in deciphering and translating details that could make most people’s eyes glaze over into a highly readable, often entertaining and always understandable story that places an emphasis on proper context. Hegarty has worked for the Daily Racing Form since 1997, serving as the primary reporter on business, regulatory, medication and political issues. Before that, he was news editor for the now-defunct weekly Thoroughbred Times after serving as an intern at The Blood-Horse. In 2014, he was selected for the American Horse Publications’ Award for Outstanding Reporting.

B. Mike Kane. In 20 years as racing writer and columnist (in addition to being a general sports columnist), Mike Kane elevated racing coverage with the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y., to among the most extensive in the country for a mainstream newspaper. He was an advocate and champion for racing coverage, making it year-round instead of seasonal and covering all the Triple Crown races and Breeders’ Cup for the first time in the paper’s history. Kane became communications officer for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2005, where he greatly improved media relations, helped turn the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies into a first-class venture and made the Hall of Fame printed program a far more professional venture. Since 2009 he has been a freelancer, including for Daily Racing Form, Blood-Horse, Courier-Journal and Thoroughbred Daily News. Kane has been a fixture on local radio and TV discussing racing, and for the last three years has been a researcher for NBC’s racing broadcasts. Kane won a Red Smith Award for Derby writing for five consecutive years, encompassing three different divisions.

C. Tim Layden. Tim’s graceful writing and engaging story-telling has become the benchmark in the business. But it’s his painstaking reporting that lays the groundwork and allows Layden to come up with details no one else has on subjects many of us are covering. Prime example is his extensive Triple Crown coverage of American Pharoah, with Layden one of the few reporters really getting behind the scenes in the Baffert barn, along with the definitive long-form piece on Jeff Lukas’ life since his debilitating head injuries in 1993. Layden has covered racing in some form since the summer of 1976, including for the Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette, the Albany Times-Union and Newsday. Layden has been the primary racing writer for Sports Illustrated and SI.com since 2001. He won an Eclipse Award in 1987 and received honorable mention four times. The Maryland Jockey Club presented him with the Old Hilltop Award in 2012.

4. MR. FITZ AWARD (Typifying the spirit of racing)

A. American Pharoah and Team. American Pharoah has proven himself a beastly talent and transcendent sports figure by virtue of becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. The bay champion not only has handled his competition with ease but become the leading media darling of his crew with his affable demeanor towards those who stand in his presence. And thanks to the generosity of his connections, fans and media alike have the unique opportunity of getting up close and hands on with the 12th Triple Crown hero as he continues to race during his historic campaign.

B. Kerwin Clark. Fourteen days out from his 56th birthday, Clark celebrated the first Grade I win of a career that began 40 years earlier when he guided Lovely Maria to victory in the Ashland Stakes. A month later, the two were being feted once more following their emotional triumph in the Kentucky Oaks. Clark, who admitted he thought his days of riding top mounts were over about 15 years ago, is proving there is no statute of limitations on when the best moments of one’s professional life can manifest. Now at the age of 56, he is teaming up with trainer Larry Jones to ride as well as he ever has on the best horses he has ever gotten on.

C. Gary Stevens underwent a full right knee replacement last summer following an examination that revealed a completely torn anterior cruciate ligament and has returned, again, at the top of his game as the regular rider for such standouts as champion Beholder and Kentucky Derby runner up Firing Line. That discovery made all the more remarkable his accomplishments of 2013, when he ended a retirement that lasted seven years to rejoin the ranks of elite riders at age 50. He earned his ninth Triple Crown victory with Oxbow in the Preakness before triumphing in the Breeders’ Cup with Mucho Macho Man (Classic) and Beholder (Distaff).

5. BILL MOONEY COURAGE AWARD (Honoring those who display great courage in the face of extreme adversity)

NTWAB’s officers and board unanimously selected Bill Mooney for the inaugural Bill Mooney Courage Award. This award and its first recipient were approved at the 2015 Kentucky Derby meeting of the organization.