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
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