DRF's Simon Wins Multi-Media Eclipse

Posted Jan. 4, 2016

Mary Simon of Daily Racing Form has won the 2015 Media Eclipse Award in the Audio/Multi-Media and Internet category for “Regret’s Derby at 100: Filly Made a Case for Equality.”

Simon's work explored the impact of the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby during a period of great upheaval in America. It was 1915, and there was an impending world war and the struggle of women to earn the right to vote.

An announcement of the award was made today by the NTRA, DRF and the NTWAB.

It's the third Eclipse Award for Simon, and she'll be honored at the 45th Annual Eclipse Awards on Jan. 16 at Gulfstream Park.

“Regret’s Derby at 100” also features Harry Payne Whitney, the prominent New York owner who entered Regret in what was at that time a mostly a regional event. The first Triple Crown winner was not to arrive on the scene for another four years. Trained by future Hall of Famer James Rowe Sr., Regret was undefeated as a two-year-old, and she raced only against males. After the 1915 “Run for the Roses,” Whitney called the Kentucky Derby “the greatest race of all,” giving it instant credibility.

Throughout the piece, supported by 100 year-old photographs, newspaper headlines, and race videos – including extraordinary footage of British suffragette Emily Davison taking her own life by jumping in front of the King’s horse in the 1913 Epsom Derby – Simon weaves into the narrative the tumultuous times and a confluence of events of the day. On the eve of the 1915 Derby, the passenger ship Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat. Whitney’s brother-in-law, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, perished among the 1,959 people aboard, and the tragedy laid  part of the foundation for America’s entry in World War I.

The women’s suffrage movement is an important theme throughout the story. At the start of 1915, a bill granting women the right to vote failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives by 204-174. The was said to be like “pouring fuel onto an already raging fire,” and a determined effort over the next five years led to passage of the 19th Amendment.

“I was thrilled that we won this award because it was a collaborative effort, which formed a beautiful multi-media piece,” said Simon, who lives in Lexington, Ky. “I have always been a racing historian. Regret has fascinated me all along, and the fact that she came along at the peak of the women’s suffrage movement, she was a wonderful inspiration for gender equality. So much started changing at the time, and Regret was also symbolic of what was going on.”

Simon credits her husband, Mark Simon, the Breeding editor and former editorial director of DRF, with the impetus for the story. Joining him among the DRF collaborators for the entry were Jody Swavy, editor-in-chief; Jim Sewastynowicz, photo editor; and Matt Brennan, senior producer of Digital.

Simon was born in Upland, Ca. where she rode and bred horses growing up. Her three Eclipse Awards have come in three different categories – in 2000 for feature writing in Thoroughbred Times and in 2012 for News-Enterprise, again in Thoroughbred Times, on medication in racing.

The winning entry may be viewed at drf.com/news/regret.  

Honorable mention in the Audio/Multi-Media and Internet category went to Sirius XM radio for “Allen Jerkens Remembered,” produced by Steve Byk, which aired on March 15, 2015, and to Thoroughbred Daily News for “The Education of Bobby Flay,” written by Lucas Marquardt, which appeared on the TDN website on October 28, 2015.

Judges in this category were Jessica Chapel of BreedersCup.com; Joe Withee, Director of Broadcast Publicity for Emerald Downs; and Amy Zimmerman, Vice President, Business Coordination & Director of Broadcasting, Santa Anita Park.

Edited NTRA release