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Gutierrez, Puhich to Receive Mr. Fitz Award

The National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association will honor Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez and his agent, Ivan Puhich, recently retired Churchill Downs track superintendent Raymond “Butch” Lehr, and two-time Eclipse Award recipient Bill Mooney at its annual awards dinner on Oct. 31 in Arcadia.

Gutierrez, 25, and Puhich, an agent since 1944, 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 rose from the relative obscurity of Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver to sweep the opening two legs of the Triple Crown aboard I’ll Have Another.

The precocious Gutierrez, drawing from Puhich’s vast knowledge, displayed remarkable patience and poise in delivering two masterful rides before I’ll Have Another was retired with a career-ending injury the day before his Triple Crown bid. Gutierrez handled that setback with the same grace that accompanied his two memorable triumphs, yet another positive reflection on Puhich.

Lehr, an industry leader in safety programs and initiatives during his 30 years as track superintendent at famed Churchill Downs, will be honored with the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing. Palmer was an esteemed turf writer at the New York Herald Tribune.

Lehr was renowned for personally grading the track to ensure uniformity, and Churchill 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.

Mooney will accept the Walter Haight Award, named for the former Washington Post turf writer and columnist, 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.

 

 

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