Candidates Named for NTWAB Awards

Posted August 10, 2016

The National Turf Writers and Broadcasters released candidates for its major 2016 awards to be presented Breeders' Cup week.

Recipients of the annual awards will be announced following polling of eligible NTWAB members. The awards will be presented at the organization's annual dinner set for Wednesday, Nov. 2 at Altadena Town and Country Club, seven miles from Santa Anita.

CANDIDATES FOR THE JIM MCKAY AWARD for broadcasting excellence, either career or in one season

1. 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, which were punctuated by his catchphrase of “and DOWN the stretch they come.” The catchphrase and the voice behind it brought positive attention to the sport as a recurring feature on Late Night with David Letterman. After his career started at Cahokia Downs, his work included everywhere from Fairmount Park to Hialeah Park, Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga, the Meadowlands and Santa Anita Park.

2. In 1999, Randy Moss became ESPN’s primary horse racing analyst and in 2011, Moss began as an analyst for the Triple Crown for NBC Sports. In addition to his horse racing analyst duties, Moss has been assigned as a reporter or host to a wide variety of NBC Sports broadcasts including college football, college basketball, golf, and two Olympic games. Prior to his television career, Moss was a newspaper reporter, horse racing handicapper and columnist for 20 years at the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette. Moss has covered all but two runnings of the Kentucky Derby since 1980, either in print or on television.

3. There are few sports Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Al Michaels hasn’t put his stamp on, including his tenure as a host of ABC’s Triple Crown coverage from 1986-2000. For a generation of racing fans, Michaels – alongside Jim McKay – was the voice and face for the American classics, breaking down the intangibles that make the trio of races the daunting journey it is. Now with NBC, Michaels was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1998. He was then inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which annually recognizes television’s most distinguished “innovators and icons” and, in December 2013, the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inducted Michaels for his “excellence and lifetime achievement.”

CANDIDATES FOR THE  JOE PALMER AWARD for long and meritorious service to racing

1. The American Association of Equine Practitioners was founded in 1954 by 11 racetrack veterinarians and has grown to serve nearly 10,000 members worldwide who work to improve the health and welfare of the horse. In the wake of the tragic deaths of three horses during the telecast of the 1990 Breeders’ Cup at Belmont Park, the AAEP developed the “On Call” program to assist racetrack management with the media and live coverage of major races throughout the country. As part of the “On Call” program, media-trained equine veterinarians are available to respond to crisis situations and to answer questions about veterinary medicine. In line with its mission to improve equine safety and welfare, the AAEP formed its Racing Task Force in 2008 to evaluate catastrophic injuries and medication usage.

2. In 2007, Madeline Auerbach created the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), a non-profit, charitable organization created to raise money for retired California racehorses. CARMA worked with the California Horse Racing Board to adopt a rule change allowing for a purse deduction to help fund equine retirement and also has managed grant requests and disbursements to qualified retirement facilities. A longtime owner, Auerbach served for eight years as a director on Thoroughbred Owners of California Board of Directors and is a founding director of The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. She was appointed in January 2014 as a commissioner on the California Horse Racing Board.

3. Jack Wolf 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. Wolf and his wife Laurie have owned Thoroughbreds since 2000. Early success encouraged the formation of partnerships in the name of Starlight Racing beginning in 2007.

CANDIDATES FOR THE WALTER HAIGHT AWARD for career excellence in turf writing

1. Matt Hegarty is one of an exceptional few turf writers who follow and understand the complex and nuanced minutia of myriad 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 deciphers and translates details that can make most people’s eyes glaze over into highly readable, often entertaining and always understandable stories that provide context to the complex and emotional. With the Daily Racing Form since 1997, Hegarty serves 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.

2. Richard Rosenblatt’s 30 years of covering racing for The Associated Press stand out in a career filled with versatility. He is a two-time recipient of the Red Smith Kentucky Derby writing award, winning his first in 2003 for his coverage of Funny Cide’s upset triumph, and, also, was honored by the Maryland Jockey Club with the 2016 Old Hilltop Award for covering the sport with excellence and distinction. Being able to present an industry-rich narrative in a style that appeals and translates to a mainstream audience has been Rosenblatt’s hallmark, along with his accuracy under increasingly tight deadlines.

3. Hank Wesch completed a nearly 50-year career as a newspaper sportswriter with his retirement in September 2010. The last 36 years of that career were spent at the San Diego Union-Tribune where, along with covering 20 Kentucky Derbys, five Preakness Stakes, eight Belmont Stakes and 20 editions of the Breeders’ Cup, he became the dean of documenting racing at the boutique meet that is Del Mar. He also authored the popular book “Del Mar, Where The Turf Meets The Surf,” and he remains an integral part of the track’s fabric as the lead writer for the track’s media notes.

CANDIDATES FOR THE MR. FITZ AWARD for typifying the spirit of racing

1. When Russell Baze announced his retirement in June, he did so in a style the embodied his Hall of Fame career – on his terms and with a ton of class. On his way to becoming the winningest jockey in racing, Baze’s blue-collar work ethic and attention to detail with regard to his mounts made him the king of Northern California racing. He received a Special Eclipse Award in 1995 for being the first jockey ever to win 400 or more races in a year for four consecutive years and his fellow riders feted him with the 2002 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.

2. B. Wayne Hughes, owner of Spendthrift Farm, brought the storied operation back to prominence in recent years with his commitment to its racing and breeding program. And no-where has his devotion to the sport been more clearly demonstrated than in his campaigning of three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder. Where Hughes could have capitalized years ago on having one of the most desirable broodmares in the world, he continues to race the now 6-year-old Beholder at the highest levels. Hughes’s sportsmanship has yielded such moments as Beholder’s win against males in the 2015 Pacific Classic and she is targeted for the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic again.

Team Tepin is headed by trainer Mark Casse and owner Robert Masterson. They have developed champion turf female Tepin into a global star while at the same time allowing the mare and their barn to be racing ambassadors. Masterson, Casse and his son and top assistant, Norman have campaigned Tepin anywhere and everywhere against open company, including her historic victory over males in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. As Tepin’s popularity grows, both Mark and Norman have been exceptionally accommodating to the media and fans alike.