Awarding the Word

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Guess, I’m supposed to write something now. This started out as a feature on the front of the website, then it became a blog, then I gave up and started scrolling Facebook (snow in Kentucky, orange moon last night, Shirley stubbed her toe…) and now it’s back as a blog.

Here’s the deal, I won the David F. Woods Award for the best Preakness story. My fourth Woods Award. I have the record. Yes, I’m Crash Davis.

The first, awarded in 2004, covered Funny Cide’s Preakness. I got lucky and wound up next to Mike Sellitto, agent for Jose Santos as Funny Cide won the Preakness. Sellitto wrote the lede, Barclay Tagg filled in the rest.

The next one, awarded in 2007, covered Barbaro’s Preakness in 2006. It was one of the few times as a writer I didn’t know what to do, I sat upstairs between my friend Tim Keefe and my future wife Anne. I was trapped, a million miles from the action, as Barbaro limped past us. It was the last time I watched a race I was covering with my friends instead of with the action. I ran through the crowd, got as close to the horse as I could stand, interviewed a mother and her kids holding a sign on a windy overpass off I-95 and wound up in the dark, on the loading chute of Michael Matz’s barn at Fair Hill. Buckets, webbing, brush box sitting in a mound of sadness.

The next one covered Curlin. Again, I got lucky as I ran into Carl Nafzger walking back to the barn to see Street Sense hours before the Preakness. He gave me everything I needed, inside the eighth pole, the story was written. Then Curlin came back and pulled the tablecloth. Steve Asmussen re-set it, in the dark outside the stakes barn, talking about Curlin for as long as I wanted.

The latest, Gary Stevens and Oxbow. Again, lucky. I had done an interview with Stevens for this website, months before, the quotes hadn’t even been transcribed. So good, they sat, waiting for the right moment. When Oxbow won, I scrambled, so much Orb stuff – now what? – then I thought back to the Stevens’ interview – hopefully still on my recorder – and the conversation I had with Stevens Preakness morning. That will work.

Access and openness writes stories, over the years, that’s what wrote these four stories – whether it was Barclay Tagg in his moment of greatness or Michael Matz in his moment of despair or Steve Asmussen in his moment of reflection or Gary Stevens in his moment of reclamation.

Ten years of covering the Preakness. Lucy Acton was my first editor. Now, it’s my brother. Well, he was always my editor, reading all my stuff before Lucy saw it – if she only knew how bad it was before it got to her… A decade has come and gone. Lucy’s gone, so are many of the beat writers who used to cover the Preakness and Crash Davis just hit another homer into the emptying bleachers.

Like Davis, I’m honored.

– Read the award-winning story at Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.

– Read more about David F. Woods.