The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced Jan. 3 that ESPN has won the Media Eclipse Award for Television—Feature Programming for its news magazine program E:60 feature "Barnyard Buddies," on the unusual relationships between racehorses and stable companion animals. The program aired May 3, 2016.
This is the second Eclipse Award for E:60, which won the Television Features category in 2012 for "Notinrwildestdremz," about an abandoned and neglected Thoroughbred retuning to the races. It is also the sixth overall Feature Television Eclipse Award for ESPN.
The Eclipse Award trophy will be presented to ESPN at the 46th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony, to be held Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The Eclipse Awards are presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders' Cup and The Stronach Group and produced by the NTRA.
In "Barnyard Buddies," the E:60 team traveled to California, New York, and Kentucky to gather stories on how goats, chickens, donkeys and even a pig can be invaluable companions to Thoroughbreds. The feature, narrated by reporter Ryan McGee, contained interviews with Triple Crown-winning trainers Bob Baffert and Billy Turner, and Michael Blowen of Old Friends Farm.
"We wanted to produce a fun, light-hearted story, but at the same time explain that horses are 'pack animals' that tend to get nervous," said Tonya Malinowski, E:60 associate producer. "They need companions to keep them calm and travel with them, and a calm and happy horse performs better."
One example of calming influence occurred in 2010 when future Breeders' Cup Marathon (G3) winner Eldaafer was flown from Florida to Kentucky to run in the Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes (G3), and was separated from his stable friend, a goat named Google. At Turfway Park, Eldaafer was not himself, acting up and not keeping his mind straight. Back in Florida, it was discovered that Google wasn't himself either, without Eldaafer. So Google was flown to Kentucky to join Eldaafer at Turfway. Reunited for three days, Google helped settle down Eldaafer, who went on to win the $500,000 Marathon. In retirement at Old Friends Farm, Eldaafer was joined by a second goat named Yahoo.
Other examples of successful companions for racehorses in the piece included another goat, named Pickles, who took care of the grade I-winning filly Weemissfrankie; Sancho, a cat, partnering with 2015 TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Runhappy ; and a one-year-old donkey named Fergie that kept the company of the filly Can't Be Dazzled.
In addition to Malinowski, Heather Lombardo and Mike Johns were supervising producers, and Megan Anderson was the field producer. Nate Hogan was the editor. Andy Tennant is Executive Producer of E:60.
Runner-up honors in the Feature television category went to Comcast Sports Philadelphia for "The Horse of a Lifetime—American Pharoah ," produced by Greg Magruder, which aired January 16, 2016. Judges for the National Television, Features category were Drew Cook, former WAVE-TV chief photographer; Dave Johnson, television producer, Sirius XM Radio Host, and longtime racing voice of the Triple Crown; and Patty Wofle, former television producer.