Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baffert Among 11 Hall of Fame Finalists

By Blood-Horse Staff

Two trainers -- Bob Baffert and Robert Wheeler -- three jockeys, and six horses have been selected as the 2009 finalists for election to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.

The 11 finalists were determined by a vote of the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee, which considered a total of 91 candidates. Edward L. Bowen is the chairman of the committee.

The finalists, in their respective categories, are:

Contemporary female horses: Open Mind, Silverbulletday, Sky Beauty.
Contemporary male horses: Best Pal, Point Given , Tiznow .
Jockeys: Eddie Maple, Randy Romero, Alex Solis.
Trainers: Bob Baffert, Robert Wheeler.

To be eligible, trainers must be licensed and actively involved with Thoroughbreds for 25 years or have been retired for a minimum of five years; jockeys must be licensed for 20 years or have been retired for a minimum of five years; horses must be retired for five full calendar years.

In early March, the approximately 180 members of the Hall of Fame Voting Panel will receive a ballot and an information packet on each of the finalists. The voters will be asked to select one name in each category. The individual with the highest number of votes in each category will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Aug. 14, 2009 in Saratoga Springs. In the event of a tie in the number of votes received, more than one finalist will be inducted.

The current system requires that a candidate must have the support of a majority of the 16 members of the Nominating Committee in order to be included as a finalist.

All inductees – including those elected by the Steeplechase Committee, which will meet this year – will be announced during a national teleconference in late April.

Maple, 60, rode 4,398 winners and his mounts earned $105,338,573 in a career that stretched from 1965 into 1998. He won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) with Crème Fraiche and Temperence Hill. The native of Carrollton, Ohio rode many of Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens’ top horses in the 1970s and 1980s, including Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo and champions Devil’s Bag, De La Rose, Swale, Forty Niner and Smart Angle. He was aboard for the final start of Secretariat’s career, a victory in the Canadian International.

According to Equibase statistics, Romero had 4,294 victories from 26,091 mounts, purse earnings of $75,264,198 and 122 graded stakes wins during a 26-year career than ended in 1999. Romero, 51, was the regular rider of the unbeaten champion Personal Ensign and champion Go for Wand. He won three Breeders’ Cup races and won riding titles at 10 individual tracks.

Solis, 44, won his first race in 1981 in his native Panama. Through the end of 2008, he had 4,635 victories from 30,551 mounts, purse earnings of $211,283,590 and 288 graded stakes victories. The California-based rider won the 1986 Preakness with champion Snow Chief and has won three Breeders’ Cup races. He rode Pleasantly Perfect to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr, I)n and the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) and was aboard Dare and Go, who ended Cigar’s 16-race winning streak.

Baffert, 56, has won eight Triple Crown races, seven Breeders’ Cup races and trained 10 champions. He led the nation in earnings three consecutive years, 1998-2000, and through 2008 ranks fifth in career purse earnings with $134,822,227. Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and the Preakness (gr. I) but failed to complete the sweep of the Triple Crown series in the Belmont Stakes. Baffert did win the Belmont with 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given, who also won the Preakness, the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) and the Travers Stakes (gr. I). Baffert has trained approximately 160 individual stakes-winning horses and has won 254 graded stakes.

Wheeler was a trainer in California until his death in 1992 at the age of 72. Two of his best-known stakes winners were C.V. Whitney’s homebred Silver Spoon, the co-champion 3-year-old filly of 1959, and the filly Bug Brush, winner of six stakes in 1959. Silver Spoon defeated males in the 1959 Santa Anita Derby. In 1960, Wheeler won the Santa Anita Derby for a second consecutive year, saddling the Whitney colt Tompion.

Much of Wheeler’s career predated the grading of racing, but from 1976, he won 26% (18 of 69) of the graded stakes he entered and won 25% of all stakes attempts. He trained a total of 56 stakes-winning horses, including Track Robbery, the 1982 older female champion.

The contemporary horse categories involve runners active within the last 25 years.

Open Mind was the champion 2-year-old filly of 1988. She earned another title at three with victories in the New York Filly Triple Crown of the Acorn, the Mother Goose and the Coaching Club American Oaks (all grade I), as well as the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and the Alabama (gr. I). Owned by Eugene Klein and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Open Mind put together a 10-race winning streak that included seven grade I victories. She was retired after two starts as a 4-year-old with a career record from 19 starts of 12 wins, two seconds and two thirds and earnings of $1,844,372.

Silverbulletday, owned by Mike Pegram and trained by Baffert, was the champion 2-year-old filly of 1998 and the champion 3-year-old filly of 1999. She won 15 of 23 career starts and compiled purse earnings of $3,093,207. Her victories included the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Ashland (gr. I), Kentucky Oaks, Alabama and Gazelle (gr. I).

Sky Beauty won the New York Filly Triple Crown and the Alabama in 1993 and was champion older filly or mare of 1994. She completed her racing career for owner Georgia E. Hofmann and trainer Allen Jerkens with 15 victories from 21 starts and purse earnings of $1,336,000.

Best Pal, bred and owned Mr. and Mrs. John C. Mabee, won 17 stakes from ages two through seven, placed in 15 other stakes and earned more than $5.6 million. Trained during his long career by Ian Jory, Gary Jones and Richard Mandella, he won most of the top races on the West Coast. Best Pal is one of only four horses to win a particular trio of the West Coast’s top rung of grade I races: the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Charles H. Strub Stakes. From ages two to four he won 12 of 23 starts.

Point Given, bred and raced by The Thoroughbred Corporation, compiled a record of 9-3-0 and earnings of $3,968,500 from 13 starts in 2000 and 2001. He was Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old of 2001. At two, the son of Thunder Gulch was second in the Champagne (gr. I) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) before his victory in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I). He opened his 3-year-old season with victories in the San Felipe (gr. II) and Santa Anita Derby. He finished fifth as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby then won the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, the Haskell Invitational and the Travers.

Tiznow won eight of his 15 career starts and earned $6,427,830. The California-bred son of Cee’s Tizzy is the only two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He defeated Giant’s Causeway by a neck in 2000 and Sakhee by a nose in 2001. The colt, trained by Jay Robbins for owner-breeder Cecilia Straub Rubens, was the 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year in 2000 and the champion older male in 2001.

The Nominating Committee has 16 members: Bowen, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, freelance turf writer, and a trustee of the Museum; W. Cothran Campbell, president, Dogwood Stable and a trustee of the Museum; Steven Crist, chairman and publisher, Daily Racing Form; Jane Goldstein, retired director of publicity and communications at Santa Anita Park and a freelance journalist; Russ Harris, retired New York Daily News turf writer, who continues to handicap for the newspaper; Jay Hovdey, executive columnist, Daily Racing Form; Dan Liebman, editor-in-chief, The Blood-Horse; Neil Milbert, former turf writer at the Chicago Tribune and a freelance journalist; Leverett Miller, breeder and owner and a trustee of the Museum; William Nack, retired senior writer at Sports Illustrated and a freelance journalist; Jay Privman, national correspondent, Daily Racing Form; Jennie Rees, turf writer and columnist, The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky; John Sparkman, bloodstock/sales editor, Thoroughbred Times; Clark Spencer, turf writer, Miami Herald; Michael Veitch, turf writer and columnist, Saratogian, New York breeding columnist, Daily Racing Form; and John von Stade, chairman of the National Museum of Racing’s Board of Trustees.

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