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Nicholson to receive Eclipse Award of Merit

Former Keeneland Association president Nick Nicholson will be honored at Gulfstream Park on January 19 (Photo courtesy of NTRA)

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters on Monday announced that Nick Nicholson will be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for his distinguished leadership and his outstanding achievements on behalf of the Thoroughbred industry.

Nicholson, of Lexington, Kentucky, will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit on January 19 at the 42nd Annual Eclipse Awards Dinner and Ceremony, which will be held at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

"I am truly honored and deeply appreciative to win the Eclipse Award of Merit," Nicholson said. "I am also quite surprised. Throughout my career, the opportunity to work in the Thoroughbred industry has been its own reward. I want to thank my wife and children (Susan, Nick Jr. and Trish) and all the kind and talented people with whom I have had the pleasure of working. This prestigious honor belongs as much to them as it does to me."

As part of a career marked by extraordinary service for some of the foremost Thoroughbred industry organizations, Nicholson, 65, most recently completed 12 years as president and chief executive officer of Keeneland Association. He became Keeneland's sixth president in 2000 and during that period, Keeneland experienced record growth as a leading Thoroughbred auction sales company and racetrack and underwent a series of renovations and innovations.  

Prior to Keeneland, Nicholson was executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club, beginning in 1989. In the next decade, The Jockey Club created the online Interactive Registration System and Equibase, which provided the Thoroughbred racetracks of North America with a uniform, industry-owned database of racing information and statistics. It was during this period that Nicholson took a leave of absence to help form the NTRA and became the organization's first chief operating officer. Prior to 1989, he was executive vice president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders.

"Nick Nicholson played a very significant role in expanding The Jockey Club's service to the industry, and he was deeply involved in the creation and launch of both Equibase and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. He added to that legacy in numerous ways during his years at Keeneland. We are extremely honored to have him as a member of The Jockey Club, and this is certainly a richly deserved award," said Ogden Mills Phipps, chairman of The Jockey Club.

Nicholson has also served on numerous boards and racing organizations, including periods as chairman of both Equibase and the American Horse Council. Nicholson has also been a director of the Kentucky Horse Park, director of the University of Kentucky Equine Research Center, past president of the Thoroughbred Club of America and vice chairman of the International Catalog Standards Committee. He received The Jockey Club Gold Medal in 2004.

"There are very few people in our industry who have achieved such success and commanded the respect of his peers as Nick Nicholson has," said Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive officer of the NTRA. "His contributions have touched all aspects of our sport; from racing, breeding and sales to improving the fan experience."

Prior to his career in racing, Nicholson was a staff member of the Democratic National Committee from 1975 to 1977, and he served as executive assistant to Kentucky Senator Wendell Ford from 1977 to 1981.

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