Thoroughbred racing's Team Valor International has honored a Paulick Report story on a drug violation at Tampa Bay Downs with the second annual Stan Bergstein Writing Award at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program's Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming in Tucson.
Team Valor founder and CEO Barry Irwin presented Ray Paulick, the publisher of the Paulick Report and writer of the piece from September 18, with a bronze trophy from renowned sculptor Nina Kaiser and the winning prize of $25,000. See the attached photo.
Paulick's story was selected over 9 other finalists by four judges—Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, former Sports Illustrated and Kentucky newspaper columnist Billy Reed, New York Post columnist Ray Kerrison and HRTV analyst Jeff Siegel.
Paulick's persistent coverage of the case involving Tampa Bay trainer Jane Cibelli culminated in a story titled "Fla. Investigation: Vet Said Cibelli Told Him ‘Keep Me Out of It'” that included testimony from a veterinarian who was caught injecting a pain-blocking agent into the leg of a horse hours before it was supposed to race.
Less than a week after the story was published, Florida's state racing body acted after a seven-month investigation, suspending Cibelli for 60 days. Tampa Bay Downs responded with an announcement that Cibelli, one of the track's perennial leading trainers, would not be granted stalls or allowed to enter horses in the 2013-'14 meet.
Kerrison praised Paulick for shining "a bright light on four dark corners—the trainer's larceny, the vet's illegal actions, the track's clear reluctance to move against Cibelli (but not the vet) and the regulatory body's unbelievable inertia in investigating the offense and imposing sanctions.
"Paulick forced their hands, but the case vividly illustrates the industry's incomprehensible reluctance to prosecute and punish wrong-doers.”
Irwin said, "I am very happy to see Ray Paulick get this honor. We created the award to praise, encourage, incentivize and celebrate Turf Writers. We felt encouragement was sorely needed because of the sorry state of the Turf Writing profession. The current state of racing journalism is best characterized by a shrinking to the downright disappearance of copy inches.
"Almost extinct is the full time Turf Writer for a daily newspaper. Magazines everywhere are contracting or folding. Any fan that reads the sports section knows there are problems with cheating and drugs. Ray is one of the few out there on a daily basis who is doing the tough work of investigating racing's issues.”
Team Valor had already tapped Paulick as the keynote speakerfor the award presentation over the summer. Before learning of the award result, he spoke today about the impact, inside and outside of horse racing, of investigative reporting, including the New York Times series that won the inaugural Stan Bergstein Writing Award last year.
"I don't think I can emphasize this enough: the reason for this reporting is to change the culture when it needs change,” Paulick said. "Those of us who do this aren't trying to make friends in the industry. We are trying to make change.”
Stories published between November 2, 2012 and November 1,2013 in North America and about horse racing were eligible for the award.Finalists included all six stories in a Thoroughbred Daily News series entitled "A Painful Truth” on medication and the reform movement in racing.
Paulick's winning piece is available here.
The other nominated stories were:
California Post-Mortem Program Has Major Flaw, by Ray Paulick, Paulick Report.
A History of Drugs In Racing, by Ryan Goldberg, Thoroughbred Daily News magazine.
War on Drugs? Vet Records and State Rules Say No, by Ryan Goldberg, TDN magazine.
The International Difference, by Bill Finley, TDN magazine.
Behind Closed Doors: A Look Inside U.S. Testing Labs, by Lucas Marquardt, TDN magazine.
As The Science Gets Better, Catching the Cheats Becomes Easier,by Bill Finley, TDN magazine.
Race Horse Is Not a Diagnosis, by Ryan Goldberg, TDN magazine.
Horse's Death Exposes Holes in Regulatory Net, by Frank Angst, the Blood-Horse.
Questions Still Unanswered in Baffert Sudden Deaths, by Ray Paulick, Paulick Report.