Hennegan Brothers, Simon earn 2015 media Eclipse Awards

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TwinSpires Staff

January 4th, 2016

Edited Press Release

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) have announced that Digital Kitchen's production of "Ironman Perry Ouzts," directed by the Hennegan Brothers, which tells the remarkable story of the 61-year-old journeyman jockey, and aired on AT&T U-Verse Sports on August 15, 2015, has won the Media Eclipse Award for Television -- Feature. This is the second Eclipse Award for Brad and John Hennegan, who won the Television Features category in 2008 for "First Saturday in May."

Also on Monday, the three voting organizations announced that Mary Simon of Daily Racing Form has won the 2015 Media Eclipse Award in the Audio/Multi-Media and Internet category for "Regret's Derby at 100: Filly Made a Case for Equality," which explored the impact of the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby during a period of great upheaval in America with impending world war and the struggle of women to earn the right to vote.

The Eclipse Award trophies will be presented to at the 45th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony, to be held January 16, at Gulfstream Park.

In "Ironman Perry Ouzts," the Hennegan brothers capture a few days in the life of the 11th leading Thoroughbred jockey of all time, following Ouzts during his daily routine at Belterra Park in Cincinnati, working four to five horses in the morning and then riding as many as nine races in the afternoon, a job he has been doing for 42 years, and one personified by dedication and loyalty to the people who have employed him throughout his career. The program includes interviews with trainer W.J. Danner, jockey John McKee and Ouzts's wife, Toni, who is a groom at Belterra.

"It's amazing," said Brad Hennegan on learning the news of again winning the Eclipse Award. "We're big fans of horse racing and we love telling stories about the hard working people that are there day in and day out. There are no days off at the track."

Ouzts, originally from Riverdale, Arkansas, and a cousin of Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires, is currently the third leading rider in mounts of all time, with more than 47,928 races ridden, trailing only Russell Baze and Laffit Pincay Jr. He has 6,554 wins through Sunday. He began riding in 1973 and, according to his estimation, has broken more than 40 bones during his riding career.

Brad Hennegan credits Belterra (and River Downs) publicist John Engelhardt for bringing Ouzts's story to their attention through Engelhardt's Facebook news feed.

"We found articles about Perry crashing his Harley Davidson, then getting patched up with duct tape and winning the Daily Double back at the track later that day," recalled Hennegan. "He seemed like one tough SOB, and so we wanted to meet this amazing athlete."

Runner up honors in the Feature television category went to Maryland Public Television for "Racing the Times," a documentary on the history of Thoroughbred racing in Maryland, produced by Nicolas Carter of Rubicon Productions, which first aired on Maryland Public Television on May 15, 2015.

Judges for the National Television -- Features category were Karen Johnson, author, racing journalist and television producer; Stephen Nagler, Chief Executive at SCN Communications, and Chris Svendsen of CBS Sports.

With text written and extensively researched by Simon, "Regret's Derby at 100” offered a retrospective of a strapping filly, owned by New York scion Harry Payne Whitney, becoming the first female to win the Kentucky Derby, a race that had to that point been mostly a regional event. Trained by future Hall of Famer James Rowe Sr., Regret was undefeated as a two-year-old, defeating male rivals in all of her races. Following Regret's triumph in the 1915 "Run for the Roses," Whitney called the Derby "the greatest race of all," and gave it instant credibility.

Throughout the piece, supported by 100 year-old photographs, newspaper headlines, and race videos -- including extraordinary footage of British suffragette Emily Davison taking her own life by jumping in front of the King's horse in the 1913 Epsom Derby -- Simon weaves into the narrative the tumultuous times and a confluence of events of the day, starting on the eve of the 1915 Derby when the passenger ship Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat, with Whitney's brother-in-law, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, perishing among the 1,959 people aboard, and laid a foundation for America's entry in the First World War.

The women's suffrage movement is an important theme throughout the story, as at the start of 1915 when a bill granting women the right to vote failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives by 204-174. The failure to pass was like "pouring fuel onto an already raging fire" and a determined effort was made over the next five years for women to gain the right to vote, which was achieved with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

"I was thrilled that we won this award because it was a collaborative effort, which formed a beautiful multi-media piece," said Simon, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky. "I have always been a racing historian. Regret has fascinated me all along and the fact that she came along at the peak of the women's suffrage movement, she was a wonderful inspiration for gender equality. So much started changing at the time and Regret was also symbolic of what was going on."

Simon credits her husband, Mark Simon, the DRF Breeding editor, and former DRF editorial director, with the impetus for the story. Joining him among the Daily Racing Form collaborators for the entry were Jody Swavy, editor-in-chief; Jim Sewastynowicz, photo editor; and Matt Brennan, senior producer of Digital.

Simon, who was born in Upland, Californian, where she rode and bred horses growing up, has now won Eclipse Awards in three different categories -- first in 2000 for feature writing in Thoroughbred Times and in 2012 for News-Enterprise, again in Thoroughbred Times, on medication in racing.

Honorable mention in the Audio/Multi-Media and Internet category went to Sirius XM radio for "Allen Jerkens Remembered," produced by Steve Byk, which aired on March 15, 2015, and to Thoroughbred Daily News for "The Education of Bobby Flay," written by Lucas Marquardt, which appeared on the TDN website on October 28, 2015.

Judges in this category were Jessica Chapel of; Joe Withee, Director of Broadcast Publicity for Emerald Downs; and Amy Zimmerman, Vice President, Business Coordination & Director of Broadcasting, Santa Anita Park.