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Media Eclipse Awards announced

January 16, 2010     E-mail this page to a friend!

The Eclipse Awards are presented by the NTRA, National Turf Writers Association (NTWA) and Daily Racing Form. Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements in North America have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories. Awards also are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing.

WLKY-TV in Louisville wins Local Television Media Eclipse Award

WLKY-TV in Louisville has won the 2009 Media Eclipse Award for Local Television for its feature on Tom McCarthy, trainer of Kentucky Derby contender General Quarters, which aired on the station’s Derby preview show on April 29. The feature was co-produced by John Boel and Scott Eckhardt.

This is the second Media Eclipse Award for WLKY-TV, having previously been honored in the Local Television category in 2006 for its documentary “Final Foal,” the last offspring of Seattle Slew.

“Given all of the excitement and terrific stories to come out of horse racing this year, we are ecstatic and extremely honored to win the Eclipse Award again.” said Eckhardt. “Tom McCarthy was a great story of a local guy taking his best shot at winning the Derby. We loved telling it to everyone.”

The WLKY production team followed the 75-year-old McCarthy, a retired Jefferson County school teacher with a one-horse stable trying to win America’s most famous horse race. Filming both at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, WLKY interviewed McCarthy prior to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, where the trainer relating his experiences of World War II, teaching school, his love of horses and how he claimed General Quarters. WLKY filmed McCarthy’s jubilation while watching General Quarters’ victory in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Honorable mention in the Local Television category went to MSG Plus in New York for its live “Saturdays at Saratoga” telecast of the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 5. Al Bernstein was the producer; John Imbriale, executive producer. WAVE- TV in Louisville also received honorable mention for its Kentucky Derby Day coverage on May 3. Amy Kapoor and Sarah Miles were the producers.

Judges for the Local Television category were Jack Coffey of Eclipse Productions; Stan Isaacs, former Newsday sports television columnist, and Amy Zimmerman, executive producer of HRTV.

ESPN wins National Television – Live Racing Media Eclipse Award for Belmont Stakes telecast

ESPN has won the Media Eclipse Award for National Television – Live Racing, for its telecast of the 2009 Belmont Stakes. The Belmont Stakes program, which was produced by Mike McQuade, aired on ABC on June 6, 2009 from Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

The Live Television Media Eclipse for ESPN will be presented at the 39th Annual Eclipse Awards, honoring Thoroughbred racing’s champions of 2009, on Monday, January 18 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

“We are extremely proud to win this award,” said McQuade, who is senior coordinating producer for ESPN. “No one works harder on this sport than we do. It’s a true year-round commitment to horse racing by this group of individuals.

“For this year’s Belmont, we wanted to give the viewers knowledge of as many individuals involved in the race as possible, not just the favorites, but all of the connections, and provide them an overall context for the show.”

As a part of its presentation, ESPN focused on the improbable story of jockey Calvin Borel, who was trying to become the first rider to sweep the three legs of the Triple Crown with two different horses. Borel had captured the Kentucky Derby on 50-to-1 longshot Mine That Bird, only to leave him for the filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness Stakes. But three weeks later, with Rachel Alexandra not entered, Borel was reunited with Mine That Bird for the Belmont. ESPN interviewed Borel before the race from the Jockeys’ room, and again following Mine That Bird’s third-place finish, when ESPN raised the question of whether Borel had moved prematurely to the lead.

ESPN also captured the emotional responses of winning trainer Tim Ice and rider Kent Desormeaux, following Summer Bird’s upset victory. For Desormeaux, the triumph represented vindication after he had lost the 2008 Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown aboard odds-on favorite Big Brown.

In addition, the ESPN production was boosted by technical enhancements, including virtual pre-race graphics and analysis of the 1½ miles of the Belmont Stakes by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey. ESPN also featured audio and camera coverage of the starting gate as the horses were loading for the race.

The Belmont Stakes telecast was directed by Doug Holmes. Joe Tessitore hosted the program. He was joined by analysts Randy Moss, Kenny Mayne, and Jerry Bailey. Jeannine Edwards and Jay Privman were the reporters, and Hank Goldberg was the handicapper. The two-hour ABC telecast was preceded by five hours of coverage from Belmont Park on ESPN.

Honorable mention in the National Television Live Programming also went to ESPN for its production of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on November 7, 2009. Tim Turrell and David Ceisler were the producers of the telecast.

Judges for the National Television – Live Racing category were: Rob Duboff of Hawk Partners; Chris Svendsen of CBS Sports and Paul Lucey of Comcast Sportsnet – New England.

Sean Clancy wins Eclipse Award for News/Commentary Writing

Sean Clancy, veteran racing journalist in the Middle Atlantic region, has won the 2009 Media Eclipse Award for Writing in the News/Commentary category for his column “Life’s Work,” about the gamut of emotions he felt while attending an estate sale of the late Hall of Fame Trainer Sidney Watters, Jr., in 2008. The entry appeared in the January 3, 2009 edition of The Blood-Horse magazine.

“It’s a real thrill for anyone in the business to win an Eclipse Award,” said Clancy, born in Wilmington, Delaware, and currently residing in Middleburg, Virginia. “It’s the pinnacle to win one, whether it’s as a jockey or a trainer or for writing. It’s always out there, and you’re always chasing after it.”

"Sidney Watters was an amazing horseman and gentleman, who represented a different era as a sportsman. My mentors, and people I respected like Leo O’Brien and Dickie Small, always talked about him and his legacy. He trained champions on the flat and over jumps, which is pretty special. I feel like I’m always trying to bridge that same gap.”

After attending the estate sale, Clancy ran into fellow writer Josh Pons at a local Timonium, Maryland, restaurant. Pons strongly encouraged Clancy to write a column about his experiences, “more or less for the therapy,” Clancy recalls. “There were piles of things there, from halters to trophies to winner’s circle photos.”

From Life’s Work: “My brother and I went to his estate auction at his farm in Monkton, Maryland, December 5. We went because we sold an ad to Steve Dance’s Auction Company, because we felt some odd loyalty, because anybody who trains a champion on the flat and over jumps is our kind of man, and simply for curiosity’s sake.

“We haven’t been the same since.

“There was his life’s work—in piles on temporary card tables in a rented tent, on the flatbed of a wagon, strewn on the ground. The valuable stuff arranged in trophy cases, the rest in cardboard boxes or just spread out like a clothesline gone awry. A man’s life, selling by the pound.”

This is the first Media Eclipse Award for Clancy, who is co-publisher of Steeplechase Times and The Saratoga Special. Clancy was also a steeplechase jockey from 1988-2000, and was a Champion Steeplechase jockey in 1998.

Honorable mention in the Writing - News/Commentary category went to four-time Media Eclipse Award winner Jay Hovdey, for his column “No Choice but to Rise to the Top” about the passing of Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, which appeared on the Daily Racing Form website on November 16, 2009.

The panel of judges for the Writing – News/Commentary category was comprised of Reid Cherner, USA Today; Ed Schuyler, former Associated Press racing writer and Paul Moran, former Newsday racing columnist.

NBC Sports wins National Television Media Eclipse Award for Mine That Bird feature

NBC Sports has won the 2009 Media Eclipse Award in the National Television Feature programming category for its documentary “The Story of Mine That Bird, 50-to-1”, which aired at the beginning of its Preakness Stakes telecast on May 16, 2009.

This is the third National Television Feature Media Eclipse Award for NBC, which previously won the award in 2002 and in 2005.

“The Story of Mine That Bird,” produced by Rob Hyland and Jack Felling, recounted the incredible tale of a lightly regarded 3-year-old who came from New Mexico—and from last place—to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby. The documentary was narrated by Bob Costas.

According to Hyland, the documentary started to take shape shortly after Mine That Bird hit the wire in the Derby. “In conversations with Sam Flood (NBC Sports’ Coordinating Producer), we had to tell the story of a how a 50-to-1 longshot came to win the Derby,” said Hyland. “There were so many layers of the story, filled with high drama, that we needed to let the viewers know.”

Supported by interviews with Mine That Bird’s owners, Dr. Leonard Blach and Mark Allen; trainer Chip Woolley and jockey Calvin Borel, NBC reached back to the colt’s 2-year-old season, his disappointing Derby preps at Sunland Park, Woolley’s 1,500-mile van ride to the Derby and his “walkover”’ to the Churchill Downs paddock while on crutches, and the jubilation of the connections following the race.

“We edited around the clock for the next 12 days right up until the Preakness, as more parts to the story were unfolding,” Hyland added. Those unfolding events included the sale of Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra to Jess Jackson; Rachel Alexandra’s entry in the Preakness; and Borel’s decision to get off Mine That Bird to ride the filly in racing’s second jewel of the Triple Crown.

“Telling this story is the true essence of horse racing,” said Hyland. “It reminds us that anything can happen on any given day. For me, personally, it’s a true honor to win an Eclipse Award because my wife’s father is a horse trainer.” Hyland is married to Michelle Matz, daughter of Michael Matz, who trained 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Honorable mention in the National Television Feature programming category went to HRTV for “Inside Information—Nowhere to Run” about recovery efforts at the Fair Grounds race track in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The program aired on September 6, 2009. Amy Zimmerman was executive producer.

Judges in the National Television – Features category were Howard Sudberry, former sports director of WBBM- TV – Chicago; Peter Lasser of Lasser Productions and G.D. Hieronymus, Director of Broadcast Services for Keeneland Association.

ESPN Radio wins Media Eclipse Award for 2009 Kentucky Derby broadcast

ESPN Radio has won the 2009 Media Eclipse Award in the Audio/Multi-Media Internet category for its live coverage of last year’s Kentucky Derby on May 3.

“We’re thrilled and gratified to win the Eclipse Award,” said John Martin, Sr. Director and Executive Producer of ESPN Radio Event Production. “It’s a tremendous honor for ESPN radio and everyone who worked on the broadcast. “Radio is theatre of the mind. What we try to do with the Derby is place the listener there in the middle of the tremendous excitement and ambient sound of the jockeys, trainers and the fans.”

For its two-hour live broadcast of the Derby, ESPN Radio reporters and analysts covered a wide range of news and feature topics surrounding the event, including the scratch of morning line favorite I Want Revenge; an examination of racing surfaces and safety measures in horse racing one year after the fatal injury to 2008 Derby runner up Eight Belles, and a feature on 75-year-old local trainer Tom McCarthy.

The Kentucky Derby broadcast was hosted by Rece Davis, who was joined by analyst Jerry Bailey, reporters Bob Valvano, Ron Flatter and handicapper Jody McDonald.

Martin, who produced the broadcast, described the victory of 50-to-1 longshot Mine That Bird as an “exhilarating challenge” for his talent and crew, and credits his reporters and analysts for being on top of one of the greatest upsets in Derby history. “The great thing about live radio is that you can’t script the ultimate result. When things happen that you don’t expect - that’s when you need to be at your most creative.”

Honorable mention in the Audio/Multi-Media Internet category went to the Lexington Herald-Leader for its multi-media website presentations of “Keeneland Blossoms for Spring Meet,” which first appeared on April 3, 2009. The site was produced by Ron Garrison, Director of Multi Media.

Judges for the Audio/Multi-Media Internet category were: Stu Kirshenbaum of Oak Street Films; Mike Farrell, racing journalist and former UPI Radio reporter and Mike Brunker of