02/19/2002 12:00AM

Pedersen: It's all about the love

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Pete Pedersen, the respected Southern California steward, and prominent breeder Harry T. Mangurian were each presented with the Eclipse Award of Merit at Monday night's black-tie dinner.

Pedersen offered a graceful, eloquent, and heartfelt speech. When accepting his trophy from Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker, he said, "Hello gorgeous," mimicking the words spoken by Greer Garson Fogelson when she accepted the golden Horse of the Year trophy for Ack Ack at the first Eclipse Awards dinner in 1971.

"Horses are known for the company they keep. So are humans. I'm in Grade 1 company tonight," Pedersen said.

Pedersen, 81, joked that when he looked at the Eclipse Award categories, he figured he was best suited for "older male," but realized he would probably lose out to Tiznow because "he's younger, richer, has more hair, and his entire sex life is ahead of him."

Pedersen is the second steward to receive the Eclipse Award of Merit, following the late Keene Daingerfield in 1985.

Pedersen said he "fell in love with horse racing" in 1933, when his mother took him for the first time to Longacres near Seattle. "In all the years, that love has never wavered," Pedersen said, "and I can say without fear of contradiction, that love is never stronger than it is tonight."

Mangurian, who was a powerhouse in Florida breeding before disbanding his horses and selling his Mockingbird Farm, all in the past few years, was honored for his long service to the sport, and for contributing $1 million to the NTRA-New York Heroes Fund.

"This has special significance," Mangurian said. "We all want to feel we made an impact in the sport. This does that for me. It's the culmination of a long and exciting career in Thoroughbred racing."

Sheikh Mohammed gets award

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum was given a Special Eclipse Award, in large part because of his contribution of $5 million to the NTRA-New York Heroes Fund. He did not attend the dinner. John Ferguson, one of the sheikh's principal advisers, accepted on his behalf.

"September 11 was a terrible, terrible day for everyone," said Ferguson, who said Sheikh Mohammed's gesture was not to curry favor, but "because of a desire to help."

"The work he has done privately behind the scenes is even greater, and I know your government is appreciative," Ferguson added. Sheikh Mohammed is the defense minister of the United Arab Emirates.

Miller time

The happiest guy in the room might have been Herman Miller, the winner of the Daily Racing Form-NTRA national tournament, who was honored at the dinner for winning the $100,000 first prize in Las Vegas 2 1/2 weeks ago.

Miller told the audience he wanted to do whatever he could to promote the sport.

Kenny Mayne of ESPN, the evening's master of ceremonies, jokingly told Miller that if he really wanted to help the sport, "you could give your $100,000 back."

Media winners honored

The seven winners of media Eclipse Awards - for writing, photography, television, and radio - also were honored.

They included WBAL Radio in Baltimore; photographer Barbara Livingston; NBC for its Breeders' Cup telecast; producer Steve Crump of television station WTVI in Charlotte, N.C.; Janet Patton of the Lexington Herald-Leader; and ESPN's Sports Century, for a profile of jockey Bill Shoemaker. Writer Laura Hillenbrand did not attend the dinner. Her trophy was accepted by Borden Flanagan.

Kind words for Dad

After Jerry Bailey was presented his fifth Eclipse as outstanding jockey, he ended his acceptance speech by saying the most difficult part of his job was all the traveling and how hard it had been on him and his family. He said he was happy because his wife, Suzee, and son, Justin, were on hand to see him accept the award. He then called Justin up to the stage and hoisted him on his shoulders.

"Mom and I are really proud of my dad. He's the best," Justin said.

Remembering a brother

In his acceptance speech as owner of Horse of the Year Point Given, Prince Ahmed Salman said he had suffered three tragedies in 2001.

They were, he said, "the loss of my brother Prince Faud, who died in July, the career-ending injury suffered by Point Given the next month, and the Sept. 11 attacks."

He said Point Given pulled him through his brother's death and he dedicated the Horse of the Year honor to his brother.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch