Edited Press Release
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters (NTWAB) have announced that Jennie Rees has won the 2015 Media Eclipse Award for Writing in the Feature/Commentary category for “Dyslexia Doesn’t Slow Down Keen Ice Trainer Romans,” a discovery of how Dale Romans overcame a severe reading disability as a child on his way to becoming one of America’s top Thoroughbred trainers. The article was first published on the Louisville Courier-Journal website on October 28, 2015.
The three voting organizations also announced that Tim Sullivan has won the 2015 Media Eclipse Award for Writing in the News/Enterprise category for “Family, PETA at odds after Horseman’s Death,” an investigative report into the circumstances surrounding the suicide of Hub Johnson, an assistant in the Thoroughbred stable of trainer Steve Asmussen, and his interaction with an informant with a hidden camera representing the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. The article appeared in the Courier-Journal on September 6, 2015.
This is the fifth Eclipse Award for Rees, who retired in November 2015 after 34 years with the Courier-Journal. Rees spent the preponderance of those years as the publication’s horse racing writer, punctuated by her meticulous coverage of the races leading to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Triple Crown each year. Rees, who lives in Louisville, won Media Eclipse Awards for magazine writing in 1988, for newspaper and news-enterprise writing in 1993 and 2011, respectively, and was the main writer on the Courier-Journal‘s Eclipse Award-winning entry in the Multi-Media category in 2008.
This is the first Eclipse Award for Sullivan, who has been a sports columnist with the Courier-Journal since 2012. Originally from Springfield, Virginia, and a journalism graduate from the University of Missouri, Sullivan was a sports writer and columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer and a sports columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune prior to joining the Courier-Journal.
Rees and Sullivan will be presented their respective trophies at the 45th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony on January 16 at Gulfstream Park
“What a tremendous way to go out,” said Rees, who was raised in Lexington, Kentucky. “This whole year has been tremendous. To be voted in the Joe Hirsch wing of the Hall of Fame, covering a Triple Crown winner and a Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. I am proud that Dale’s story was written during a very busy week at the Breeders’ Cup. This was the kind of story that you want to spend time writing at other times of the year, and you want to take a week to write it. I think it’s a tribute to the power of the subject and Dale’s willingness to open up about a very difficult subject.”
Honorable mention in the Feature/Commentary category went to Vinnie Perrone for “Hall of Fame Ride: Maryland Trainer Leatherbury takes place among Thoroughbred Racing Legend,” a profile of King T. Leatherbury, which appeared in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred in August 2015; Joe Drape for “Ahmed Zayat’s Journey: Bankruptcy and Big Bets,” which appeared in The New York Times on June 5, 2015; and to Melissa Hoppert, also of The New York Times, whose article “A Storied Trainer and a Witness to History,” about Hall of Famer John Nerud, appeared on the publication’s website on June 6, 2015. Judges in this category were Ed Gray, former Boston Herald racing writer; Lynne Snierson, former sports writer for the Boston Globe and the Miami News; Hank Wesch, former racing writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune; and Richard Rosenblatt, racing and sports writer for The Associated Press.
“I’m thrilled and honored to be chosen for an Eclipse Award, but my excitement is somewhat tempered by the tragedy of Hub Johnson,” Sullivan said. “In the course of reporting this story, I developed a high regard for a young man I never met and a keen appreciation of how his loss has affected his family and friends. Their willingness to share personal and sometimes painful memories helped me gain insight into Hub’s life as well as his death.”
On March 28, 2014, the 27-year-old Johnson shot himself 10 days after PETA submitted allegations against Asmussen’s operation to state and federal regulators, and just one day after he was referenced, but not named, in an online story about jockeys’ use of electro-shock devices with Thoroughbreds — a piece prompted by a hidden-camera clip taken by PETA’s investigator, Kerin “Beth” Rosen. From Sullivan’s article, “Of the nine letters Johnson composed on the last day of his life, six mention videos he suspected and worried were in PETA’s possession.”
Honorable mention in the News/Enterprise Category went to Joe Drape for “American Pharoah Wins Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown,” which appeared in The New York Times on June 7. Judges for the News/Enterprise category were Dan Liebman, former Blood-Horse and Frankfort (Ky.) State Journal editor; Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun and David Papadopoulos, a managing editor at Bloomberg News.