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Friday, 16 August 2013 10:31

William Nack to Share Saratoga Memories

By Staff Report | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Turf writing legend William Nack will is coming to the Spa City to discuss his memories of Saratoga racing on Wednesday, August 21 at 7 p.m. in the Canfield Casino. This event is part of the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust Program Series and is co-sponsored by the Saratoga Springs History Museum and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. This event is free and open to the public.

Nack will talk about some of the greatest races of all time at Saratoga, including Secretariat’s victory in the Hopeful Stakes in 1972, Ruffian’s victory in the Spinaway Stakes in 1974 and the victory of Gusty O’Shay in the 1973 Hopeful. Nack will also talk about the legendary 1962 Travers between Jaipur and Ridan, a race considered by many the greatest ever at Saratoga. Nack will also discuss the 1930 Travers in which Jim Dandy beat the two favorites, Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox and Whichone, in one of the great upsets in history. Nack will tell these stories and others and explain how Saratoga Race Course earned the moniker the “Graveyard of Favorites.”

Nack was born in Chicago. In high school, he was a groom at Arlington Park where he worked for trainer Bill Molter. Nack began writing during college while attending University of Illinois. After graduating in 1966, Nack enlisted in the Army. His two-year hitch included a tour in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1968. 

Nack moved to Long Island, where he worked as a political and environmental writer for Newsday. During a Christmas party in 1971, he jumped on top of a newsroom desk and recited, chronologically, the names of every Kentucky Derby winner, from the inaugural race in 1875. The editor asked Nack to cover horse racing for the Sunday paper and Nack accepted. The editor explained that he would have to post the position. All Nack had to do was write a memo stating why he wanted the job. Nack’s note said, “After covering politicians for four years, I’d love the chance to cover the whole horse.” The following spring, he became the tabloid’s official turf writer.

In 1973 he published “Secretariat” after Big Red won the Kentucky Derby in a time of 1:59.4, breaking the track record of 2:00. Nack recalls Secretariat as a “chivalrous prince of a colt who was playful and mischievous—he once grabbed my notebook out of my hand with his teeth, when I was talking to his groom.”  Red Smith of the New York Times called the book “the next best thing to watching Secretariat run.”

In 1978, Nack joined the staff of Sports Illustrated. Though his main beat was horse racing, he wrote on a variety of subjects. In 1987 alone, his output included lengthy takeouts on heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson, Jan Kemp’s damage suit against the University of Georgia and the USFL’s lawsuit against the NFL. 

By the early 1990s, Nack was noticing more and more breakdowns during horse races. His investigation met a wall of silence, until one veterinarian spoke to him off the record: cortisone had become the stables’ drug of choice to mask the fatigue of injured horses unfit for racing. Nack exposed the cortisone scandal to the public in his 1993 feature story “The Breaking Point,” which told of a filly, So Sly, put down after breaking a leg during a race.

Nack has worked as a writer and on-camera host and narrator for the Emmy nominated pilot of the TV series “Unsettled Scores.” He has received numerous awards, including Eclipse Media Awards for Outstanding Magazine writing with Sports Illustrated in 1978, 1986, 1989 and 1990. He received the award for outstanding featuring writing for Sports Illustrated in 1991. In 2003, The Thoroughbred Charities of America awarded him with the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Life Time Achievement Award. In 2004 he received the A.J. Liebling Award from the Boxing Writers’ Association of America. Nack was an inaugural selection for the National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Honor Roll. He retired from Sports Illustrated in 2001 and continues to freelance on movies and television, including the 2009 Disney movie “Secretariat” and the made for Television movie “Ruffian.” 

Call (518) 584-6920 for more information or visit at www.saratogahistory.org.

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