Nack, Legendary Author of ‘Secretariat: The Making of a Champion,’ Dies at Age 77

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Legendary author Bill Nack at Equestricon in 2017 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Eclipse Sportswire)

William Nack, a renowned sports journalist and author, died April 13 at his home in Washington D.C. after a lengthy illness, according to Secretariat.com. He was 77.

A seven-time media Eclipse Award winner, Nack was best known for his coverage of Hall of Famer Secretariat. His acclaimed biography on “Big Red” is considered the definitive account chronicling the history of the Meadow Stable colt and his ascent to the 1973 Triple Crown. The book was used as the inspiration for the 2010 Disney movie “Secretariat.”

Coglianese/NYRA photo

Nack joined Sports Illustrated in 1978 and became one of the signature voices of the publication. He wrote on everything from racing to boxing to chess. Nack left the magazine in 2001 and was a freelance writer for numerous publications, including ESPN and GQ.

“We are very saddened to learn of Bill’s passing. He was as much a part of the Secretariat story as anyone, and his book ‘Secretariat: The Making of a Champion’ remains the benchmark for excellence in equine journalism,” representatives from the Secretariat team, including the Penny Chenery/Tweedy family, Ron Turcotte, and Secretariat.com said in a statement. “Bill was a master storyteller whose incredible talent was only matched by his vast knowledge in a diverse spectrum of interests, including film and entertainment, poetry and literature, history, politics, and, of course, his favorite subject — horse racing.

“In this sad time, we take solace in the fact that his legacy, and the legacy he helped shape of Secretariat, live on in the hearts of countless generations of racing fans.”

Nack was born in Chicago in 1941 and then moved with his family to Skokie, Ill., at the age of 10. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1966 and serving in the army, he moved to New York and worked with Newsday, covering sports, politics, and the environment for 11 years before joining Sports Illustrated, SI.com reported.

Among the many awards Nack won throughout his career were the ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sportswriting in 2017 and the 1992 Walter Haight Award for career excellence in turf writing presented by the National Turf Writers Association. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor in 2010.

Nack is survived by his wife, Carolyne, and four children. Service arrangements are being determined and will be announced soon.

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