The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced Jan. 4 that John Scheinman has won the 2016 Media Eclipse Award for Writing in the Feature/Commentary category for "Andrew Beyer: Rebel with a Cause," a dynamic profile of the former Washington Post racing columnist, horseplayer, and creator of the Beyer Speed Figures, which appeared on the Paulick Report website on November 12, 2016.
This is the second Eclipse Award for Scheinman, a freelance writer-editor and former turf writer at the Washington Post, who lives in Baltimore. He was honored with the Feature/Commentary writing Eclipse in 2014 for "Memories of a Master: The Determined Life of Dickie Small," which appeared on BloodHorse.com.
Scheinman will receive his trophy at the 46th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony 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.
"It is extremely gratifying to win the Eclipse Award having written about a person who had such a profound influence on my approach to horse racing in Andy Beyer," said Scheinman. "I know I feel like many others who fell under his influence. As a student at American University, when I began to get into horse racing, Andy was the guy I was reading—his books and columns in the Washington Post. Throughout my career, I have always wanted to write as well, and play the horses as well, as he does.
"When I found out that Andy would no longer be writing for the Washington Post or Daily Racing Form, all I heard was silence. I thought that this was an injustice to a towering figure in our sport that also spoke to the decline of coverage of horse racing. I had thought about writing this story for a long time. He's a fascinating subject, and so to have written a piece about him and to be recognized for it is such a thrill and makes me very proud."
Beyer will also be honored at this month's Eclipse Awards ceremony with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in the Thoroughbred industry.
In blunt and often humorous terms, Scheinman examines the many facets of Beyer's 46-year career, describing a professional both admired and disliked, taking on establishment in the racing industry and in state government. Beyer often wrote about racing from the horseplayer's point of view, and recognized the primary importance of the player in the game. Over time, Scheinman relates, Beyer's popularity and stature grew through tales of his conquests, including massive exotic wagering payoffs and cleaning out the press box teller window on the first race on Preakness Day. Yet the germ that drove Beyer's approach had been in place early on.
At Harvard, he wrote for the Crimson—the student newspaper—covering sports and making up rock and roll quizzes. His serious studying took place at Suffolk Downs, Lincoln Downs, Narragansett and assorted poker tables.
His failure to complete his English degree showed the depth of his obsession. He skipped a senior-year exam on Chaucer to drive to Long Island to bet on Amberoid in the 1966 Belmont Stakes. Beyer, whose father taught history at Southern Illinois University, finished out of the money at Harvard, but Amberoid came in and paid $13.
In his writing, Beyer never hesitated to point out a pronounced racing surface bias or to lament when trainers racked up winning streaks that he saw as signs of cheating.
His first book, "Picking Winners," became a national best-seller. His Beyer Speed Figures are a bedrock component of Daily Racing Form past performances.
Scheinman also reveals that Beyer was very serious about his journalistic approach to tracking down a story as well as the craft of writing, sticking to principles of sentence structure and proper diction. Yet it was always clear being a horseplayer informed his work.
As (writer Steven) Crist points out, without gambling Beyer may never have developed into the writer he became. He took the core premise that horse racing should serve the bettors that supported it and extrapolated that into journalistic inquires of horsemanship, track management, medication and industry governance. Along the way, he told lots of great stories, knocked down sacred cows, tweaked noses and reveled in his own mischief.
The winning submission can be accessed here.
Honorable mention in the Feature/Writing category went to Tim Layden for "He's Quite a Horse: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of California Chrome ," which was published on the Sports Illustrated website on Oct. 31, 2016, and to Sandra McKee, for "Line of Duty," about Joe Miller, a courageous and determined horse ambulance driver at the Maryland racetracks, which was published in the April 2016 edition of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.
Judges in the Feature/Commentary category were Reid Cherner, former USA Today writer and columnist; Dan Liebman, former editor of The BloodHorse; Bob Kieckhefer, racing writer for United Press International; and Gary Yunt, former Denver Post writer and editor.