(Edited press release)
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers Association announced Jan. 9. that the Hennegan Brothers documentary "The First Saturday in May," which chronicled the stories of six horses and their connections on the journey to the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), has won the 2008 Media Eclipse Award in the national television feature programming category. The 90-minute program aired on HorseRacing TV Oct. 28, 2008.
This is the second Eclipse Award for HRTV, which won the 2006 National Television Media Eclipse Award for the Pony Highway Production of "On the Muscle; Portrait of a Thoroughbred Racing Stable."
John and Brad Hennegan of Huntington, N.Y., traveled more than 150,000 miles during a 16-month period as they documented horses preparing for the 2006 Kentucky Derby. The documentary offered a first-hand look at those who dedicate their lives to horse racing and chase the dream of winning the Derby.
Among the trainers who told their stories were Bob Holthus (trainer of Lawyer Ron); Frank Amonte (Achilles of Troy); Dan Hendricks (Brother Derek); Kiaran McLaughlin (Jazil); Dale Romans (Sharp Humor); and Michael Matz (Barbaro). The documentary also included previously unseen footage of 2006 Derby winner Barbaro.
"We are humbled and honored to win an Eclipse award and want to thank the entire racetrack community for championing our film from the beginning," said Brad Hennegan. "We would especially like to thank Churchill Downs, The Jockey Club, the NTRA, and HRTV for their incredible understanding and support throughout this process."
"'The First Saturday in May' is emblematic of the high standard of programming which HRTV strives to bring to our viewers," said Amy Zimmerman, executive producer of HRTV. "We were proud to debut their documentary on television and congratulate John and Brad on their extraordinary achievement."
Released theatrically in more than 25 U.S. markets in April 2008, a portion of proceeds from "The First Saturday in May" were donated to the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation.
Judges in the National Television - Features category were Richard Valeriani, media consultant and former NBC News White House correspondent; Stan Isaacs, former Newsday sports television columnist; and G.D. Hieronymus, director of broadcast services for Keeneland Association.
Honorable mention in the National Television Feature programming category went to TVG for "The Legend of Lava Man," which aired Dec. 26, 2007. The documentary was produced by Scott Eberly.