Nick Nicholson, who retired as president of Keeneland in September of last year, will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit for his leadership and achievements on behalf of the Thoroughbred industry, officials said Jan. 7.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters said Nicholson, of Lexington, will receive the award Jan. 19 at the 42nd Annual Eclipse Awards Dinner and Ceremony, presented by Daily Racing Form, The Stronach Group, and Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
"I am truly honored and deeply appreciative to win the Eclipse Award of Merit," Nicholson said. "I am also quite surprised. Throughout my career, the opportunity to work in the Thoroughbred industry has been its own reward. I want to thank my wife and children (Susan, Nick Jr., and Trish) and all the kind and talented people with whom I have had the pleasure of working. This prestigious honor belongs as much to them as it does to me."
Nicholson, 65, most recently completed 12 years as president and chief executive officer of Keeneland. He became Keeneland's sixth president in 2000 and during that period, Keeneland experienced record growth as a leading Thoroughbred auction company and racetrack and underwent a series of renovations and innovations.
Prior to Keeneland, Nicholson was executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club, beginning in 1989. In the next decade, The Jockey Club created the online Interactive Registration System and Equibase.
It was during that period Nicholson took a leave of absence to help form the NTRA and became the organization's first chief operating officer. Prior to 1989, he was executive vice president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders.
"Nick Nicholson played a very significant role in expanding The Jockey Club's service to the industry, and he was deeply involved in the creation and launch of both Equibase and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association," Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps said. "He added to that legacy in numerous ways during his years at Keeneland."
Nicholson has served on numerous boards and racing organizations, including periods as chairman of both Equibase and the American Horse Council. Nicholson has also been a director of the Kentucky Horse Park, director of the University of Kentucky Equine Research Center, past president of the Thoroughbred Club of America, and vice chairman of the International Catalog Standards Committee. He received The Jockey Club Gold Medal in 2004.
"There are very few people in our industry that have achieved such success and commanded the respect of his peers as Nick Nicholson has," NTRA president and CEO Alex Waldrop said. "His contributions have touched all aspects of our sport; from racing, breeding and sales to improving the fan experience."