ICONIC HIRSCH DEAD

Joe Hirsch, the longtime columnist for the Daily Racing Form known as the dean of American turf writers, has died. He was 80.

Hirsch’s career spanned more than 50 years, and he chronicled the road to the Kentucky Derby with his detailed reports on prep races in Florida, California, Kentucky and New York.

According to Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form, “Hirsch was one of the most respected, honored figures in American racing, and the scope of his accomplishments is encyclopedic. He won an Eclipse Award for newspaper writing in 1978 and the Eclipse Award of Merit in 1992. He won the Lord Derby Award from Britain’s racing writers, the only writer to win both the Lord Derby Award and an Eclipse Award. He is the only person to win all three awards presented by the National Turf Writers Association – the Walter Haight Award for career achievement, the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service, and the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of racing.

In 2004, the Turf Classic at Belmont Park was renamed the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and the press boxes at both Churchill Downs and Saratoga Race Course bear his name. He founded and was the first president of the National Turf Writers Association, becoming a mentor to several generations of racing writers.”

Hirsch was born in New York City in 1928. He attended the University of New Hampshire and New York University, from which he earned a degree in journalism. After working as a stringer for The New York Times, Hirsch joined The Morning Telegraph, a sister publication to Daily Racing Form, as a copy editor in 1948.

He had a four-year stint in the Army before returning to the Telegraph in 1954. In the spring of 1955, he got his first assignment writing for Daily Racing Form. He was promoted to executive columnist in 1974, and retired in 2003.