SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Turf writers Steven Crist, Charles Hatton, William Nack, and Walter “Red” Smith have been named the inaugural selections to the National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor. The honorees will be recognized in a ceremony on Friday, Oct. 1 at Belmont Park, the day before the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational.
Crist has served as publisher and columnist for Daily Racing Form since 1998. He is the author of five books, including “The Horse Traders” and “Betting On Myself.” Prior to working for Daily Racing Form, Crist served as a turf writer and columnist for the New York Times, and was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Racing Times. He has also worked for the New York Racing Association. Crist has received numerous awards for his turf writing, including the Walter Haight Award from the National Turf Writers and the Red Smith Kentucky Derby Writing Award.
Hatton was a distinguished turf columnist for Daily Racing Form for more than 45 years. He joined DRF in January of 1930 and wrote his final column on May 7, 1975. Hatton was influential in the creation of the annual Eclipse Awards and was also a strong advocate for racetracks to offer the same purse structure for fillies and mares as they did for colts because, he claimed, “a good filly had little chance to win much money” in the 1940s, causing many breeders to “plow their filly foals under.” Hatton was honored with a special Eclipse Award for his contributions as a chronicler of Thoroughbred racing in 1974. He also wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal, The Blood-Horse, and Thoroughbred Record.
Nack wrote about sports, politics, and the environment at Newsday for 11 years before joining the Sports Illustrated staff in 1978 as an investigative reporter and general feature writer, where he remained until 2001. He has freelanced for numerous publications, including GQ and ESPN.com. Nack also served as an adviser on the made-for-TV-movie “Ruffian” (2007) and the Disney feature “Secretariat,” which is scheduled to be released in theaters nationwide in October. Both of those films were based on books written by Nack. He has won seven Eclipse Awards, and in 2003 was presented the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Lifetime Achievement Award by Thoroughbred Charities of America.
Smith was one of America’s preeminent sports writers of the 20th century. After graduating from college, he worked for the Milwaukee Sentinel, St. Louis Journal, and Philadelphia Record. Smith then joined the New York Herald Tribune, where his column was widely read and often syndicated. When the paper folded in 1966, he became a freelance writer. Smith joined the New York Times in 1971 as a contract writer. By this time, his reputation was secured as one of the foremost sports writers in America.
During his tenure with the New York Times, Smith garnered many awards. In 1976, he was the first sportswriter to win the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He also received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976. Furthermore, the Associated Press awarded him the first Red Smith Award for “outstanding contributions to sports journalism.” Also named in his honor is the Red Smith Handicap, a race at Belmont Park.
The National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor was established to honor individuals whose careers have been devoted to, or substantially involved, writing about Thoroughbred racing (non-fiction), and who distinguished themselves as journalists. The selection committee was appointed by Museum President Stella F. Thayer on behalf of the Museum’s Executive Committee. It consists Edward L. Bowen, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, and former editor-in-chief of The Blood-Horse; Bob Curran, vice-president of corporate communications for The Jockey Club; Jane Goldstein, former director of public relations for Santa Anita, and a veteran racing journalist; Ken Grayson, Thoroughbred racing historian and collector; Cot Campbell, founder and president of Dogwood Stable; and Leverett Miller, Thoroughbred owner and breeder, and nephew of C.V. Whitney, a Museum founder.
Hirsch earned a degree in journalism from New York University, then served in the United States Army for four years. He joined the New York Times but remained only a short time before he went to work for The Morning Telegraph, the companion paper of the Daily Racing Form, with which he became associated in 1954. He retired from DRF as its executive columnist in 2003.
Often referred to as the dean of Thoroughbred racing writers, Hirsch won both the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Writing and the Lord Derby Award in London from the Horserace Writers and Reporters Association of Great Britain. He also received the Eclipse Award of Merit (1992), the Big Sport of Turfdom Award (1983), The Jockey Club Medal (1989), and was designated as the honored guest at the 1994 Thoroughbred Club of America’s testimonial dinner. The annual Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park was named in his honor, as are the press boxes at the Saratoga Race Course and Churchill Downs. Hirsch also served on the National Museum or Racing’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee until his death in 2009.