The National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) has announced the 2012 award recipients who will be honored at the annual NTWAB awards dinner to be held Oct. 31 in Pasadena, Cal. The awards honor individuals who have made a difference in the sport of horse racing.
This year’s honorees include Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez and his agent, Ivan Puhich, retired Churchill Downs track superintendent Raymond "Butch" Lehr, and two-time Eclipse Award recipient Bill Mooney.
Gutierrez and Puhich will receive the Mr. Fitz Award, named for the late Hall of Fame trainer Jim “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons, for typifying the spirit of racing. Gutierrez, 25, drew mainstream attention when he guided I’ll Have Another to a win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby after a shocking upset win in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes a month earlier. He followed those wins with thrilling victories in the first two legs of the Triple Crown before an injury forced I’ll Have Another into early retirement one day before the colt was set to attempt the final jewel in the Belmont Stakes. Puhich, 85, has been a jockey’s agent for most of his life.
Gutierrez, drawing from Puhich’s vast knowledge, displayed remarkable patience and poise in delivering two masterful rides aboard I’ll Have Another and handled the setback in the Belmont with the same grace that accompanied his two memorable triumphs, yet another positive reflection on Puhich.
Butch Lehr will be honored with the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing, named for the late New York Herald Tribune turf writer. Lehr has been an industry leader in safety programs and initiatives during the 30 years he served as track superintendent at Churchill Downs.
Lehr was renowned for personally grading the track to ensure uniformity. Churchill Downs was regarded as one of the nation’s safest courses under his watch. He also oversaw the design and construction of the Matt Winn Turf Course, which opened in 1986 and is celebrated as one of the finest surfaces of its kind.
The Walter Haight Award, named for the former Washington Post turf writer and columnist, will be awarded to Bill Mooney for excellence in turf writing. Mooney is a two-time Eclipse Award winner, earning that prestigious honor in 1985 and 2007. He authored The Complete Encyclopedia of Horse Racing and co-authored Keeneland’s Ted Bassett: My Life. The latter was chosen for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award in 2010.
Mooney owns more than a dozen American Horse Publication awards and was cited twice with the David Woods Award for the best Preakness story, befitting his status as one of the finest writers of his era.
Photo: Kentucky Derby/Dan Dry/Power Creative