12/30/2008 12:00AM

Perrone awarded Eclipse for writing

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A heartfelt memoir of the late Clem Florio has brought the gifted writer Vinnie Perrone his first Eclipse Award, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced on Tuesday.

"Recalling Clem Florio's Matchless Gift for Life," published in the July 2008 edition of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine, was cited as the winner of the 2008 media Eclipse Award for writing in the feature/enterprise category.

Florio, a former prize fighter who became legend in Maryland racing circles as a brilliant handicapper, died in May from cancer at age 78. Perrone, 50, worked alongside Florio as a writer for the Washington Post in the 1980s and 1990s, and his story was a tribute to his mentor.

"Capturing Clem Florio is like trying to capture the Grand Canyon with a store-bought Instamatic camera," Perrone said.

Perrone's story included anecdotes of Florio's colorful life and recollections of the relationship between Florio and Perrone. Florio was a child actor in the Italian-American theater, a hotwalker for Hall of Fame trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, and later a handicapper who had an uncanny sixth sense when it came to a horse's body language.

"He was a proven, dynamic, illustrious horse-picker, a student of bloodlines, a titan of the turf," Perrone wrote in his piece.

Honorable mention in the feature/enterprise category went to David Papadoupoulos for "The Horse Traders," which appeared in Bloomberg Markets magazine in February 2008.

Perrone will receive his Eclipse Award at the 38th annual Eclipse Award dinner Jan. 26 in Miami Beach, Fla.