Finley wins Eclipse for News/Enterprise Writing

by | 12.29.2010 | 3:13pm

Press Release

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters (NTWAB) today announced that Bill Finley has won the 2010 Media Eclipse Award for Writing in the News/Enterprise category for “Do We Need a Sturdier Racehorse? Racing Grapples With Smaller Fields, Fewer Starts,” which appeared in Thoroughbred Daily News on November 16.
 
This is the first writing Media Eclipse Award for Finley, 49, a veteran freelance writer of New York Metropolitan newspapers, who resides in Fair Haven, N.J. Finley was also a part of the Sirius Satellite Radio broadcast team which won the Audio and Multi Media Internet award for its 2005 Breeders' Cup World Championships program.
 
“I'm thrilled to win this honor,” said Finley.  “This is the most prestigious award that you can win in Thoroughbred racing and I am glad to have my name added to the list of individuals who have won this award.

It is a subject that has always fascinated me.  I love the sport. The horses are the stars and they are not racing as much as they used to. I thought it was detrimental to the sport. I wanted to do an in depth study and examine why did horses race 25 times in a year 40 years ago, not five or six like today? I know I didn't solve it, but I tried to shed light on the problem and really tried to examine what's going on.”
 
In “Sturdier Racehorse” Finley delved into extensive research and probed the minds of racing's major figures from the worlds of training, breeding and equine and human medicine seeking answers as to why Thoroughbreds race less frequently than in prior generations. Finley examined the number of starts racehorses made in previous years and the potential effects of medications that may have been contributing factors to the reduced performance of the race horse, and the effects of two year-old racing. Disagreements among these individuals were evident throughout the piece.  Finley garnered a wide range of opinions, from among leading trainers Allen Jerkens, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Nick Zito; breeders Robert Clay and Arthur Hancock, and  veterinarian  Dr. Larry Bramlage and leading genetics experts such as Doug Antczak from Cornell University and Dr. Ernest Bailey of the University of Kentucky.
 
The Jockey Club's statistics regarding how often horses run go back to 1950, when the average starts per runner per year was 10.91. In 1960, the number had increased to 11.31, and, with the exception of a very small increase in 2009, from 6.20 to 6.23, it has been falling ever since. In 1980, the figure was down to 9.21. In 1990, it fell to 7.94. In 2005, it fell to 6.45, the first time it dipped below 6.5 since The Jockey Club began keeping records.

Anecdotally, top-level horses seem to run less frequently than ever. A five- or six-race campaign for a Grade I horse is the norm, and rarely will any run back in less than a month. Never was that more evident than during this year's Triple Crown series, which, by the time the Belmont rolled around, had fallen apart. No horses competed in all three races, and the Belmont field included neither the Kentucky Derby nor Preakness winner.
 
“I approached this story knowing that it would not come out with a nice simple answer that the experts would conclude,” said Finley, who credits Thoroughbred Daily News Publisher Barry Weisbord with the concept of an expository piece on major racing issues. “Clearly there were a number of contributing factors to infrequent starts and the experts forwarded that.”
 
The complete article appears here.
 
Honorable mentions in the News/Enterprise category went to Tom Keyser for “The Feeling's Mutual,” about the bond between horses and humans, which was published in the Albany Times-Union on Aug. 23; and to Jennie Rees for “Jockey Safety: No Sure Bet” for articles that appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal on April 25.
 
The panel of judges for the Features/Enterprise Writing category was comprised of Jane Goldstein, for publicity director for Santa Anita Park; Mike Brunker of MSNBC.com and George Solomon, Professor of the Practice,   the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and former Sports Editor of The Washington Post.

  • I thought it was a terrific piece, other than the inclusion of Bramlage’s study suppporting why data says it is better to run a horse as a 2yo. i thought that study was naive at best.

  • Jersey Josh

    Congrats to Bill. It was a great article.

  • LJ Broussard

    Congratulations to Mr. Bill Finley. His work is always good; this article, one of his best.

  • Sidney

    Ray, you should have your own awards for best, ugliest and funniest response on your website.

  • Please relay my congratulations to the fellow Garden Stater.

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