The Mr. Fitz Award is named for the late trainer James E. Fitzsimmons, who trained Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and Omaha; the Joe Palmer Award is named for the late racing editor of the New York Herald Tribune; and the Walter Haight Award is named for the late racing columnist for the Washington Post.
Racing's all-time winningest jockey, Laffit Pincay Jr., is one of three award winners named today by the National Turf Writers Association.Members of the NTWA voted to honor Pincay with the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing. Also, the Sackatoga partners that own Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide will receive the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of racing and retired turf writer Russ Harris will be recognized by his peers with the Walter Haight Award for lifetime excellence in turf writing.The presentations will be made at the organization's annual awards dinner, to be held Oct. 22 in Pasadena, Calif., three days prior to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita.Pincay officially announced his retirement April 29, two months after suffering vertebra fractures to his neck in a March 1 spill at Santa Anita. He passed Bill Shoemaker's all-time win record of 8,833 on Dec. 10, 1999. In 38 years of riding, Pincay was aboard 9,530 winners.Sackatoga Stable represents one of the feel-good stories of recent times. A group of friends purchased a New York-bred gelding for just $75,000 and won racing's biggest prize, the Kentucky Derby. Funny Cide became the first New York-bred to win the race and the first gelding since 1929. Funny Cide then won the Preakness and the group of New York owners and their New York horse had a shot to sweep the Triple Crown. Funny Cide finished third.Sackatoga's managing partner is Jack Knowlton. The others members of the group are David Mahan, Gus Williams, Lew Titterton, Eric Dattner, Harold Cring, Jon Constance, Mark Phillips, Peter Phillips and Larry Reinhardt.Harris retired as the racing writer for the New York Daily News 16 years ago. After leaving the press corps, he completed his doctorate in American History at Lehigh University at the age of 75. Now 80, Harris still handicaps the New York Racing Association tracks from his home in Pennsylvania for the Daily News and is doing research for a book. Harris started in the newspaper business in 1951 and spent 10 years as the racing writer at the Miami Herald, two years as the sports editor of the Miami Beach Sun, seven years covering racing at the Philadelphia Inquirer, followed by the decade at the New York Daily News.