11/21/2003 12:00AM

Churchill honors Hirsch

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The Churchill Downs press box, which is scheduled to be ready for the 2005 Kentucky Derby, will be named "The Joe Hirsch Media Center" in honor of Daily Racing Form's longtime executive columnist, the track announced Friday.

"There are few people in the history of the Kentucky Derby that have provided more valuable service to America's greatest race and the racing industry than Joe Hirsch," said Tom Meeker, president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc. "The naming of Churchill Downs' new media center in Joe's honor is a most fitting tribute, as it symbolizes not only our gratitude for his impact, but also recognizes his giant influence on all of the print and electronic journalists" who cover racing.

Hirsch, who is scheduled to officially retire next Saturday, Nov. 29, began his writing career at the Racing Form in 1954.

The facility will replace the press box that was demolished as part of the track's $121 million renovation. The former press box had honored former Churchill president Wathen Knebelkamp since 1966.

The new media center will include a display of photographs and other items that will salute Hirsch's career.