Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor
About Joe Hirsch
During a career that carried him from the eras of Citation and Native Dancer to the dawn of the 21st century, Joe Hirsch received every conceivable honor that could have been bestowed upon someone who considered himself merely lucky to be able to write about the sport he loved.
A New Yorker by birth, Hirsch made his mark as both a tireless reporter of Thoroughbred racing for Daily Racing Form and a peerless ambassador of the game. His signature work occurred each spring when he followed the quest for the American classics in his “Derby Doings” for the Form, but beyond that the entire racing world was his oyster. He was instrumental in the creation of the Arlington Million in 1981, a midsummer classic for older runners that reached out to the best stables of Europe. Likewise, Hirsch was there at the dawn of the Japan Cup, the Breeders’ Cup, and the Dubai World Cup, stamping each event with the imprimatur of his formidable reputation.
A grateful racing industry gave Hirsch both an Eclipse Award for Outstanding Newspaper Writing (1978) and the Award of Merit (1992) for a lifetime of service. His British colleagues recognized Hirsch’s international reach with the Lord Derby Award from the Horserace Writers and Reporters Association of Great Britain (1981). Hirsch won the Big Sport of Turfdom Award (1983), The Jockey Club Medal (1989), and was the 1994 Honor Guest at the Thoroughbred Club of America’s testimonial dinner. The National Turf Writers Association, which was founded by Hirsch in 1959, honored him with the Walter Haight Award for excellence in turf writing (1984), the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing (1994), and the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of horse racing (1998).
The Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is not the only institution that bears the imprint of Hirsch’s name. Press boxes at Saratoga Race Course and Churchill Downs have been named for him, along with the Joe Hirsch Breeders’ Cup Writing Award, the Joe Hirsch Scholarship of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, a major grass race run each fall at Belmont Park. Hirsch retired from Daily Racing Form in 2003 and died in 2009 in New York, at the age of 80.
The Honor Roll
Steven Crist (2010)
Steven Crist went from his Harvard graduating class of 1978 directly to work as a copy boy for the New York Times. Since pari-mutuel betting already was Crist’s passion, the leap in 1981 to the horse racing beat for the native New Yorker was only logical. Crist covered the cream of the sport’s races and personalities for the Times until 1990, when he left to help establish the Racing Times, a publication designed to challenge the primacy of the Daily Racing Form. The Racing Times made a mark but folded in less than a year upon the death of its publisher, financier Robert Maxwell. After a detour into racetrack management as a vice-president with the New York Racing Association, Crist became one of the principals in the 1998 purchase and virtual reinvention of the Racing Form as publisher, columnist and eventually publisher emeritus. Crist is the author of five books, including "The Horse Traders," "Betting On Myself" and "Offtrack," a collection of short stories. His numerous writing honors include the Walter Haight Award from the National Turf Writers Association and the Red Smith Kentucky Derby Writing Award.
Charles Hatton (2010)
Charles Hatton (1905-1975) was heralded far and wide as the first turfwriter whose prose elevated the daily coverage of horse racing to a lofty literary plane. Born in Indiana, Hatton worked for his hometown New Albany Ledger, the Louisville Courier-Journal and The Blood-Horse magazine before joining The Morning Telegraph—forerunner to the Daily Racing Form—in early 1930. Hatton arrived at the New York-based publication just in time to cover the exploits of Bel Air Stable’s Gallant Fox, who swept the 1930 Preakness, Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in stylish fashion. Inspired by the feat, as well as the quality of Gallant Fox, Hatton took to print to urge the three-race series borrow from the British model and be dubbed an American “Triple Crown.” Although Hatton was best known for the Racing Form column he wrote until 1975, his most lasting impact may have come from the comprehensive “Year in Review” and “Profiles of Best Horses” he wrote annually for the American Racing Manual. In 1974, Hatton received a Special Eclipse Award for his contributions as a chronicler of Thoroughbred racing, and remains the only journalist so honored.
William Nack (2010)
In an eclectic, colorful career that has spanned the eras of Secretariat to Zenyatta, William Nack has written about everything from politics and the environment to all manner of sporting endeavors. His kinship to Thoroughbred racing began in his native Chicago, where he worked as a teenager for Hall of Fame trainer William Molter and laid hands upon Horse of the Year Round Table. After a tour with the Army and service in Vietnam, Nack went to work for Newsday, covering a variety of beats before landing the job as lead turf writer and, later, general sports columnist. In 1978, Nack joined the staff of Sports Illustrated as investigative reporter and feature writer. He won six Eclipse Awards for turf writing while at the magazine, and a seventh Eclipse as a freelancer for GQ after his retirement from Sports Illustrated, in 2001. Nack has written three books, including a collection of selected works in "My Turf: Horses, Boxers, Blood Money and the Sporting Life," and biographies of Secretariat and Ruffian that were made into feature films. Among Nack’s other honors are the Walter Haight Award from the National Turf Writers Association, the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Lifetime Achievement Award from Thoroughbred Charities of America, and the A.J. Liebling Award from the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Walter “Red” Smith (2010)
Red Smith (1905-1982), one of America’s preeminent sportswriters, was a Wisconsin native who worked for the Milwaukee Sentinel, the St. Louis Journal, and the Philadelphia Record before joining the New York Herald Tribune in 1945. The Herald Tribune folded in 1966, after which Smith found a prestigious home for his syndicated column with the New York Times. In 1976, Smith solidified his place in journalism history by becoming only the second sportswriter to win the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Although the entire world of sports was his beat, Smith held an abiding affinity for Thoroughbred racing. The five collections of Smith’s finest columns are replete with racing stories, and horse racing returned the compliment, honoring Smith with an Eclipse Award for newspaper writing in 1973 and the Walter Haight Award for career excellence in 1977, not to mention the naming of a race at Belmont Park called the Red Smith Handicap that was still being run well into the 21st century. In his final column, filed for the Times shortly before his death, Smith tipped his love of racing once again by singling out Bill Shoemaker as one of the greatest athletes he’d ever met.
Russ Harris (2011)
Russ Harris (1923-2016) began his journalism career at the Canton Repository in his native Ohio following service in World War II. He became involved in turf writing and handicapping in 1957 at the Akron Beacon Journal, where he made his selections under the nom de plume Phil Dancer (an homage to his favorite horse, Native Dancer). Harris moved on to the Miami Herald and also worked summers for Daily Racing Form in Chicago, which led to stints as a official racing steward at Hawthorne, Arlington, and Washington Park. His next stop was the Philadelphia Inquirer, and then the New York Daily News, where Harris did double duty as a prolific racing writer as well as a popular public handicapper. (His greatest handicapping achievement occurred on May 8, 1981, when he selected the winners of all nine races on the card at Belmont Park.) Harris continued to put his opinions on the line through 2008, when he was the leading public handicapper during the Saratoga meet. In 2003, Harris was honored by his colleagues in the National Turf Writers and Association with the Walter Haight Award. Away from the track Harris spent time as a teacher, and in 1999, at age 75, he earned his Ph.D. from Lehigh University.
Joe Palmer (2011)
Joe Palmer (1904-1952) graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1927 and taught English composition and literature there from 1928 to 1932, then later at the University of Michigan before being hired as an associate editor at The Blood-Horse. While at the publication, Palmer wrote Names in Pedigrees (1939) and was responsible for most of the work in Horses in the Blue Grass (1940) and The Thoroughbred Horses (1942). In addition, Palmer wrote the text for the 1944-1951 editions of the historically indispensible American Race Horses. In 1946, Palmer hired on as the racing writer for the New York Herald Tribune and became widely known for his syndicated column, “Views of the Turf.” During this period Palmer also could be heard over the Columbia Broadcasting System as the radio network’s Turf Analyst. In 1953, a collection of Palmer’s columns was published under the title This Was Racing, edited by Red Smith, who wrote of his late colleague, “No man who wrote had more grace and charm.” The reverence in which Palmer was held by his peers is reflected in the naming of the Joe Palmer Award for Meritorious Service to Racing, which has been presented annually by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association since 1964.
Jay Hovdey (2012)
Jay Hovdey, a native of California, is a graduate of Arizona State University who joined the Los Angeles office of the Daily Racing Form as an editor in 1976. During a subsequent freelance career his work appeared in Reader’s Digest, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, and such Thoroughbred racing publications as the Thoroughbred Times, the Horseman’s Journal, Spur and Pacemaker International. After a period as national correspondent and columnist for the Racing Times and then The Blood-Horse, Hovdey rejoined Daily Racing Form in 1998 as executive columnist. He is the author of four books on horse racing, including Whittingham: A Thoroughbred Racing Legend, Cigar: America’s Horse and Long Rein: Tales from the World of Horse Racing, and was a staff writer for the HBO dramatic racetrack series Luck. Hovdey has won five Eclipse Awards, Canada’s Sovereign Award, and is a two-time winner of both the David F. Woods Award for coverage of the Preakness Stakes and the Joe Hirsch Award for coverage of the Breeders’ Cup. In 1995, Hovdey was honored by the National Turf Writers Association with the Walter Haight Award for career excellence.
Whitney Tower (2012)
Whitney Tower (1923-1999) was a graduate of Harvard University who flew reconnaissance missions over North Africa during World War II before commencing a career in sportswriting with the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1948. He joined Sports Illustrated in 1954 as its lead writer on Thoroughbred racing coverage and turf editor, where he teamed with the legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro on the seminal five-part series, “The Art of Race Riding,” published in 1957. In 1976, Tower left Sports Illustrated to help establish the high-end sports magazine Classic. He served as both racing writer and editor and won two Eclipse Awards for his own work in the magazine during the publication’s short-lived but highly-praised run. Tower, whose great-great-grandfather was Thoroughbred racing pioneer Cornelius Vanderbilt, subsequently served for eight years as the president of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs and then its chairman for another 10 years. In addition to his Eclipse Awards, Tower received the Thoroughbred Racing Association’s award for magazine writing 1967, and collaborated on the historical work, “Saratoga: The Place and the People.”
Andrew Beyer (2013)
Andrew Beyer cultivated an interest in handicapping Thoroughbreds while attending Harvard University in the 1960s and ended up spending much of his time at the races at nearby Suffolk Downs. His early career as a sportswriter took a significant turn in 1970 when he began writing a horse racing column for the Washington Daily News. At the same time, Beyer was developing and refining a handicapping system based on speed figures that burst upon the scene in 1975 with the publication of his first book, Picking Winners. In 1978, Beyer joined the Washington Post as horse racing columnist, a vantage point from which he offered insightful commentary and analysis on all aspects of the racing business until his retirement from the staff in 2004. Beyer continued to write columns for the Post and other publications, such as the Daily Racing Form, while maintaining control over the Beyer Speed Figures product that made him a household name in gambling circles and fundamentally changed the way in which a Thoroughbred’s performances were analyzed. In 1998, Beyer was honored by the National Turf Writers Association with the Walter Haight Award for career excellence.
Kent Hollingsworth (2013)
Kent Hollingsworth (1930-1999) was best known as both the editor and passionate editorial voice of The Blood-Horse magazine from 1963 until 1986, whose weekly column “What’s Going on Here?” addressed the most significant industry issues of the day. A graduate of University of Kentucky, Hollingsworth did a tour in the Army and then went to work in 1954 as a news photographer and general sports writer for the Lexington Herald, while also filing weekly reports on Kentucky sports as a regional correspondent for Sports Illustrated. Hollingsworth served as both editor and contributing writer for "The Great Ones," a collection of profiles of elite racehorses published in 1970. Following his tenure at The Blood-Horse, Hollingsworth taught equine law at the University of Louisville as a Distinguished Lecturer in equine law in the Equine Industry Program, and wrote for the Racing Times and Thoroughbred Times. He served as president of the National Turf Writers Association, chairman of the Racing Hall of Fame Committee, and secretary of the Grayson Foundation, and was honored with the Walter Haight Award by the National Turf Writers Association in 1990.
George F.T. Ryall (2013)
George F.T. Ryall (1887-1979) was known to readers of The New Yorker for more than half a century for his meticulous reporting on Thoroughbred racing under the pen name “Audax Minor.” Born in Toronto, Canada, and educated in England, Ryall began his career in journalism as a general assignment reporter for the London Exchange-Telegraph. After emigrating to New York, Ryall was in the right place at the right time to join the staff of the fledgling magazine that bore the city’s name. However, since he was still writing for the World at the time, Ryall adopted a pen name for his articles in The New Yorker (“Audax” was likewise an alias for a famous British writer). Ryall’s column “The Race Track” appeared in The New Yorker from 1926 until 1978, making him the longest running correspondent in a stable of writers that included John Updike, Roger Angell and John Hersey. Ryall also wrote for such publications as The Blood-Horse, Town & Country, The Sportsman and Country Life. In 1973, he received the Walter Haight Award from the National Turf Writers Association for lifetime achievement.
Jennie Rees (2014)
Jennie Rees covered horse racing for the Louisville Courier-Journal from 1983 through her retirement in 2015 and won Eclipse Awards in four different decades, four as an individual for writing and a fourth as the lead journalist for the Courier-Journal’s 2008 multimedia Eclipse-winning package on horse safety. Rees is also a five-time winner of the Red Smith Award for Kentucky Derby coverage. A past president of the National Turf Writers Association (now the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association), Rees has been recognized for career achievement by the NTWA, the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders and Maryland Jockey Club. She has twice been voted Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year. Rees grew up in Lexington, Ky., and is a graduate of Indiana University.
Jim Murray (2014)
Jim Murray (1919-1998) wrote about thoroughbred racing and numerous other sports for the Los Angeles Times from 1961 to 1998. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 and was named Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association 14 times. Murray was presented the J. G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. Prior to his tenure with the Los Angeles Times, Murray wrote for Time magazine (1948 through 1955) and Sports Illustrated (1953 through 1961). He also was a reporter for the Los Angeles Examiner, as well as Connecticut’s New Haven Register and Hartford Times. A native of Hartford, Conn., Murray graduated from Trinity College in Hartford. Murray’s legacy is honored today by the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation. The organization provides annual scholarships to undergraduate journalism students. There are currently 28 college journalism programs that participate in the student essay competition for the scholarships.
Steve Haskin (2015)
Steve Haskin served as senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse from 1998 through 2015. He still works for the publication on a limited basis, continuing his popular “Hangin with Haskin” blog and the “Derby Dozen,” his ranking and analysis of the Kentucky Derby contenders. As senior correspondent, Haskin was The Blood-Horse’s lead writer on the Triple Crown races and Breeders’ Cup. In 2002, Haskin was honored with the Walter Haight Award from the National Turf Writers Association for career excellence in turf writing. Prior to The Blood-Horse, Haskin spent nearly 30 years working for Daily Racing Form. He began his career as a copy boy at the Morning Telegraph in New York in the late 1960s before becoming the librarian for Daily Racing Form and finally being named national correspondent and taking over "Derby Doings" from Joe Hirsch in 1994. Haskin is the author of six books on racing: “Baffert: Dirt Road to the Derby (1999); “Horse Racing’s Holy Grail: The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby” (2002); “Tales from the Triple Crown” (2008) and three entries in the Eclipse Press Thoroughbred Legends Series, “Dr. Fager” (2000); “John Henry” (2001) and “Kelso” (2003). Haskin also has the distinction of winning five American Horse Publications first-place awards in five different categories.
Raleigh Burroughs (2015)
Raleigh Burroughs (1901-1998), was editor of Turf and Sport Digest for 19 years and The Maryland Horse for eight years. He wrote lively racing columns featured in several magazines, as well as an autobiography, “Horses, Burroughs, and Other Animals” (1977). He authored a popular weekly column for The Chronicle of the Horse from 1953 through 1980. In 1963, Burroughs was selected to be the author of “American Race Horses” for the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association. In 1974, Burroughs was honored with the Walter Haight Award by the National Turf Writers Association for career excellence in turf writing. Burroughs ceased writing in the early 1980s when he suffered an eye ailment, but he became a judge for The Chronicle of the Horse’s annual journalism awards. Burroughs died Sept. 25, 1998, three weeks shy of his 97th birthday, in Homosassa Springs, Fla.
Maryjean Wall (2016)
Maryjean Wall is a three-time Eclipse Award winner and the first woman to be accepted to the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, grew up in Canada before moving to Kentucky in 1966. She joined the staff of the Lexington Herald-Leader the following year and worked for the paper until retiring from full-time duty in 2008. One of the first women to cover thoroughbred racing on a regular basis, Wall won Eclipse Awards for her writing in 1980, 1997 and 1999. She is also a two-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize. Following her retirement from the newspaper, Wall completed her PhD in American History from the University of Kentucky. In 2012, she authored the book “How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders.” Wall has also won the Walter Haight award, the Hervey Award for harness racing coverage and honors from the Associated Press Sports Editors, as well as awards from the American Horse Shows Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.
Jim McKay (2016)
Jim McKay (1921-2008) a native of Philadelphia, became a reporter for the Baltimore Sun before joining that same organization’s new TV station, WMAR-TV, in 1947. He joined CBS in New York in 1950 before moving on to ABC and serving as host for the influential “Wide World of Sports,” which debuted in 1961. One of the most visible and vibrant presences in horse racing media, McKay covered numerous major events in the sport, including the Triple Crown series. His legacy in thoroughbred racing was assured in 1986 when he founded the Maryland Million Day, a series of races designed to promote Maryland’s horse breeding and racing industry. The event was the first state-bred showcase in American racing and has led to numerous other states implementing similar programs. McKay was the 1999 Honor Guest for the Thoroughbred Club of America’s Annual Testimonial Dinner. Overall, McKay won 13 Emmy Awards and was inducted into both the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the American Sportscasters Hall of Fame. Following McKay’s death in 2008, the Maryland Million Classic was renamed the Jim McKay Maryland Million Classic in his honor. In April 2009, the Maryland legislature passed a joint resolution to officially rename the entire event the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day.