The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) has announced that Pony Highway Productions and HRTV have won the Media Eclipse Award in the National Television - Features category for the documentary "On the Muscle: Portrait of a Thoroughbred Racing Stable," which explored the world of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella and six horses in his stable. The documentary, produced by Robin Rosenthal and Bill Yahraus of Pony Highway, aired February 28, March 7 and March 15 of 2006 on HRTV. You can read a review of the DVD here as well as order a copy.
"On the Muscle" chronicled a year inside Mandella's stable and featured individual stories on six horses: Pleasantly Perfect, Redattore, Kudos, Ile de France, Brisquette and The Tin Man. The documentary took the viewer behind the scenes at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood Park, recording the highs and lows of the backstretch and the drama of race day. The film culminates with Mandella's unprecedented four victories at the 2003 Breeders' Cup World Championships.
"This is like winning an Academy Award," said Yahraus, who along with his wife, Rosenthal, are based in Littlerock, Calif. "We wanted to show the excitement and emotional rollercoaster of getting horses ready for training and racing on a daily basis; the triumphs, the setbacks and the things you can't control."
"We also found an exemplary individual in Richard Mandella, who displays extraordinary patience, resilience and care in his work, added Rosenthal. "Richard gave us virtually unlimited access to his stable and his staff."
Amy Zimmerman, executive producer of HRTV commented, "Bill and Robin poured their hearts and souls into this project. It was our privilege to give them an outlet to show it, and we are proud to have aired "On the Muscle" on HRTV. Telling the stories of the racing world is the very heart of our network and an area we will continue to expand upon with future programming."
Honorable mention in the National Television Features category went to ESPN for its feature on Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, which aired during ESPN's Belmont Stakes coverage on June 10 of last year. Heather Lombardo was the producer.
Judges in the National Television - Features category were Rob Duboff of Hawk Partners Productions; Joel Feld, of New England Sports Network, and Paul Lucey, Fox Sports Net.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) has also announced that NBC Sports has won the Media Eclipse Award for National Television - Live Racing, for its production of the 2006 Preakness Stakes.
The Preakness telecast, produced by Sam Flood, aired on May 20 from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. NBC's telecast focused on the dramatic events surrounding the race and the injury to Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. NBC provided replays of the start of the race, and followed up with interviews of track veterinarians and racing officials. NBC also deployed its reporters to the backstretch until Barbaro departed for the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania.
"We are extremely proud to continue our long history and tradition of covering Thoroughbred racing by winning the Eclipse Award," said Flood, who was producing his first Preakness telecast. "We had the dual responsibility of documenting the race, and then quickly picking up the main story of the health and safety of Barbaro. Tom Hammond displayed tremendous leadership in anchoring the broadcast during that crisis period."
Judges for the National Television - Live Racing category were: Stan Isaacs, former Newsday television sports columnist; Bud Lamoreaux, former CBS Sports producer and Pete Macheska, director, Fox Sports. The decision of the judges was unanimous.
The Eclipse Awards are presented by the NTRA, National Turf Writers Association (NTWA) and Daily Racing Form. Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories. Awards also are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing.
The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.
The 2006 Eclipse Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, January 22, 2007 at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. For hotel accommodations and Eclipse Awards dinner reservations, contact Debbie Blair at the NTRA's Lexington office, (800) 792-6872, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.