Vinnie Perrone, who for years covered Thoroughbred racing for the Washington Post, was announced Dec. 30 as winner of the Eclipse Award for writing in the feature/enterprise category. The 50-year-old Perrone, who lives in Burtonsville, Md., was honored for an article recalling the life of his mentor, the late Clem Florio, a longtime newspaper handicapper and linemaker in Maryland. The story was published in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred in its July 2008 edition.
"The Eclipse Award, for me, is the Holy Grail," said Perrone, who covered Thoroughbred racing for the Washington Post from 1987-1997. "The years I covered racing were the most rewarding of my career. It is both gladdening and bewildering to win this award. Capturing Clem Florio is like trying to capture the Grand Canyon with a store-bought Instamatic camera."
In ‘Matchless Gift,’ Perrone weaves anecdotes of Florio’s life with his own recollections of their personal and professional relationship, from being taken under Florio’s wing, to taking over for him as the Post’s handicapper and turf writer. Perrone recalls Florio’s early days from the hard streets of Ozone Park, N.Y., and dots his piece as a peppered timeline of a childhood actor in the Italian-American theatre; a hotwalker for "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons, a middleweight fighter, and later, newspaper handicapper with Baltimore News-American and the Post; to his passing in May from cancer at 78. "He was a proven, dynamic, illustrious horse-picker, a student of bloodlines, a titan of the turf," Perrone writes. "I had a flimsy notion a furlong meant an eighth of a mile. That knowledge Clem doubtlessly imparted. From 1980, he’d escorted me across the theoretical turf with avuncular care and a gardener’s patience, schooled me on the crafting and nuance of the graded race line, the importance of time, of changes in medication, equipment and stable, of workouts and training patterns, of breeding, track biases and layoffs..."
Perrone, a native Hartford, Conn., worked at the Post from 1979 through 1997. A graduate of the University Maryland with a degree in Journalism, Perrone is a frequent contributor to the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.
Honorable mention in the Writing – Features/Enterprise category went to David Papadoupoulos for "’The Horse Traders," which appeared in Bloomberg Markets magazine in February 2008.
The panel of judges for the Features/Enterprise Writing category was comprised of Paul Moran, former racing writer and columnist for Newsday; Fred Klein, former columnist for TheWall Street Journal and Jim Peden, former vice president of communications for The Jockey Club.