Hall of Fame finalists announced

Photo by TOM KILLIPS

Point Given, shown here after winning the 2001 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, is among the nominees for the Hall of Fame in 2010. He is pictured with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Six horses, two jockeys and two trainers are finalist nominees for election to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Under the revised format announced earlier, all the candidates are grouped together rather than being divided into categories.

Voters will be asked to vote for as many as four and are not required to include one from each type of candidate. The four with the highest number of votes will be elected.

The nominees were selected by the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee from a total of 76 candidates suggested throughout the year by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans.

“The revised system creates the possibility that we might have more than one Hall of Famer from one group and none from another,” said Edward L. Bowen, chairman of the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.

The nominees include contemporary female horses, contemporary male horses, jockeys and trainers. To be eligible, trainers must have been active for 25 years and jockeys must have been active for 20 years. Horses must have been retired for five years. All must have been active within the past 25 years. A separate Historic Review Committee is assigned to consider participants from farther back in history.

The results of the vote on contemporary candidates will be announced on May 28. The induction ceremonies will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sale Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Friday, August 13 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremonies are free and open to the public.

The nominees for 2010 are: Azeri, Best Pal, trainer Gary Jones, Open Mind, Point Given, jockey Randy Romero, Safely Kept, Sky Beauty, jockey Alex Solis and trainer Robert Wheeler.

Azeri won 17 of her 24 starts, including three consecutive victories in the Apple Blossom Handicap, and posted 12 Grade 1 wins during her career. She was named Horse of the Year in 2002 and Champion Older Female in 2002, 2003 and 2004. She retired as the all-time leader in earnings among females ($4,079,820, since surpassed by Zenyatta).

Best Pal was a durable gelding who raced seven years. He won 18 of 47 starts, including six Grade 1 victories. Best Pal is one of only four horses to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Charles H. Strub Stakes.

Jones won 1,465 races from 7,900 starts (18.5 percent), including 102 graded stakes and 233 overall stakes, and had purse earnings of $52,672,611. He won 15 meeting titles on the Southern California circuit. Jones twice won the Santa Anita Handicap and trained 1986 Champion Older Male Turkoman.

Open Mind was the Champion 2-Year-Old Filly of 1988 when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She won 12 of her 19 career starts, including the New York Filly Triple Crown (Acorn, Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks) as well as the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes at age 3. Open Mind posted a 10-race win streak, which included seven Grade 1 events. She repeated as her division champion as a 3-year-old and finished her career with nine graded wins among her 11 stakes victories.

Point Given was Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Male in 2001. That year, Point Given dominated in the Grade 2 San Felipe and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby before finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby. However, he rebounded to win the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Travers in succession, all of which were $1 million, Grade 1 events. Point Given was retired with nine victories in 13 starts and earnings of $3,968,500.

Romero won 4,294 races from 26,091 mounts (16 percent) and had purse earnings of $75,264,198 in a career that dated from 1973-99. He was the regular rider of two of the most spectacular fillies of his era, Go for Wand and the undefeated Personal Ensign. He won Breeders’ Cup races on both of them, as well as a Breeders’ Cup on another distaffer, Sacahuista. Romero won 122 graded stakes and 342 overall stakes and earned riding titles at 10 tracks, including Belmont, Arlington, Gulfstream, Keeneland and Fair Grounds.

Safely Kept raced four years, winning 24 of her 31 starts and accumulated earnings of $2,194,206. She won four of her five starts as a 2-year-old in 1988 and then took eight of her nine races at age 3 to earn the Eclipse Award as Champion Sprinter. At 4, Safely Kept was a perfect seven-for-seven. Each victory was in a stakes race and culminated with a triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. She concluded her career with five wins in seven starts as a 5-year-old, including her third victory in the Genuine Risk Handicap, Maryland Million Distaff and Garden Stakes Handicap.

Sky Beauty won 15 of her 21 starts and had purse earnings of $1,336,000 in her four-year career. She posted a five-race win streak at age 3, which included the New York Filly Triple Crown and the Alabama Stakes. At age 4, Sky Beauty posted another five-race win streak, including a 10-length romp in the Go for Wand. She had a brief campaign at 5, adding her second victory in the Vagrancy. Nine of Sky Beauty’s 15 wins were in Grade 1 races.

Solis began his career in 1981 and continues to ride at an elite level today. Through 2009, he had 4,760 wins among 31,424 mounts (15 percent) and purse earnings of $218,003,546. Among his victories are 299 graded stakes and 586 overall stakes. Solis won the Preakness, Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby and Jersey Derby with Snow Chief and the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup with Pleasantly Perfect. He ended Cigar’s 16-race win streak aboard Dare in Go in the 1996 Pacific Classic and snapped Azeri’s consecutive win streak at 11 with Got Koko on the 2003 Lady’s Secret Handicap. Solis has won 16 meeting titles on the Southern California circuit.

Wheeler trained from 1938 right up until his death in 1992. He won 1,336 races and trained for prominent owners such as C.V. Whitney, J. Rukin Jelks, Greentree Stable and Nelson Bunker Hunt. Wheeler conditioned 56 stakes-winning horses, including Track Robbery, the 1982 Champion Older Female. The majority of his career predates the grading of races, but from 1976 on he won 18 of the 69 (26 percent) graded stakes his horses ran in and 44 of his 175 (25 percent) overall stakes attempts.

Check our Web site at www.racingmuseum.org

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is located across from the Saratoga Race Course on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs.  Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a. m – 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon – 4 p.m.  Hours during the Saratoga Race Meet are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.  Programs at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame are made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency.  Call 518-584-0400 for more information.

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