Randy Romero, Azeri, Best Pal and Point Given elected to Hall of Fame

Randy Romero, who won 4,294 races in his career, will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame on Aug. 13. (National Museum of Racing photo)

By BRIEN BOUYEA

Communications Officer

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Jockey Randy Romero and horses Azeri, Best Pal and Point Given have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. The Class of 2010 will be inducted on Friday, August 13 in a ceremony at 10:30 a.m. at the newly renovated Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion.

Romero, Azeri, Best Pal and Point Given were elected in the contemporary category by the 182 members of the Hall of Fame’s voting panel. The Hall of Fame’s Historic Review Committee will announce its selections on Wednesday, June 9, completing the Class of 2010.

Romero, 52, won 4,294 races in a career that began in 1973 and concluded in 1999. He won 16 percent of his races and his mounts earned purses totaling $75,264,198. He was the regular rider of two of the most spectacular fillies of his era, Go for Wand and the undefeated Personal Ensign, both of whom Romero will join in the Hall of Fame.

Romero won Breeders’ Cup races on both Go for Wand and Personal ensign as well as a Breeders’ Cup on another distaffer, Sacahuista. Romero won 122 graded stakes (17 percent) and 342 (18 percent) stakes overall. He won riding titles at 10 tracks, including Belmont, Arlington, Gulfstream, Hialeah, Keeneland, Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs. At Keeneland, he won five races in succession and six on one card, and at Gulfstream he won four stakes on a single program.

In addition to his Breeders’ Cup victories, Romero won the Beldame three times, the Blue Grass Stakes, Gulfstream Handicap, Ladies Handicap and Vosburgh twice each and had single victories in the Frizette, Louisiana Derby, Whitney, Alabama, Mother Goose, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Florida Derby, Woodward, Champagne and Coaching Club American Oaks.

Along with Personal Ensign and Go for Wand, Romero’s top mounts included Crème Fraiche, Risen Star, Personal Flag, Polish Navy, Banshee Breeze, Housebuster, Hansel, Seeking the Gold, Yankee Affair and Java Gold.

Azeri (by Jade Hunter—Zodiac Miss, by Ahonoora) won 17 of her 24 races, including 11 Grade 1’s. She debuted with a six-furlong victory at Santa Anita on November 1, 2001 and won her only other start that year as a 3-year-old. At four, Azeri won eight of her nine starts, including Grade 1 victories in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap, Apple Blossom Handicap, Milady Breeders’ Cup Handicap and Vanity Handicap. She also won the Grade 2 Lady’s Secret Breeders’ Cup Handicap and Clement Hirsch Handicap and finished second in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes.

At five in 2003, Azeri extended her win streak to 11. She again registered Grade 1 victories in the Apple Blossom, Milady and Vanity and also repeated in the Clement Hirsch. Her streak was snapped when she finished third in the Lady’s Secret Breeders’ Cup Handicap, a race during which she suffered a tendon injury.

Azeri won her unprecedented third Apple Blossom at age six in 2004 and also added the Grade 1 Go for Wand Handicap and Spinster Stakes that year. She was named Horse of the Year in 2002 and Champion Older Female in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Azeri retired as the all-time leader in earnings among females (since broken by Zenyatta) with $4,079,820. She was trained by Laura de Seroux and then D. Wayne Lukas during her final year of racing. Azeri was owned by Allen E. Paulson. Following Paulson’s death in 2000, J. Michael Paulson raced Azeri for his father’s trust.

Best Pal (by Habitony—Ubetshedid, by King Pellinore) was a durable, popular and successful gelding who won 18 of his 47 career starts and placed in 11 others. Racing from ages two through eight, he won 17 stakes and had career earnings of $5,668,245.

Based in California, Best Pal is one of only four horses to win a particular trio of the West Coast’s top rung of races: the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Charles H. Strub Stakes.

At two, Best Pal won five stakes, including Grade 1 victories in the Norfolk and Hollywood Futurity. The following year, in 1991, he was second in the Kentucky Derby before returning west to win the Swaps Stakes and defeat older stars Twilight Agenda and Unbridled in the Pacific Classic.

At four, Best Pal won the San Fernando, Strub, Santa Anita Handicap and Oaklawn Handicap in succession. He raced on successfully for three more years and into a fourth. His victories in those years included the Hollywood Gold Cup, Cal Cup Classic, Native Diver Handicap and San Antonio Handicap. Best Pal was owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Mabee and trained by Ian Jory, Gary Jones and Richard Mandella.

Point Given (by Thunder Gulch—Turko’s Turn, by Turkoman) was named Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Male in 2001. Trained by Bob Baffert, Point Given broke his maiden in his second start as a 2-year-old and also won the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile and Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity during his juvenile season.

At three, Point Given dominated in his two starts at Santa Anita. He took the Grade 2 San Felipe by 2¼ lengths before a 5½-length romp in the Santa Anita Derby. Point Given was then a troubled fifth in the Kentucky Derby, which turned out to be the last race of his career that he lost.

Following the Derby, Point Given won the final two jewels of the Triple Crown with a 2¼-length victory in the Preakness and a jaw-dropping 12¼-length triumph in the Belmont. He then went on to win the Haskell Invitational and Travers, becoming the first horse to ever win four consecutive races with $1 million purses. He also joined Hall of Famers Man o’ War, Whirlaway, Damascus and Native Dancer as the only horses since 1900 to win the Preakness, Belmont and Travers. Point Given, who was owned by Prince Ahmed bin Salman, was retired following the Travers victory because of an injury and concluded his career with 9 wins from 13 starts and earnings of $3,968,500.

Edward L. Bowen is the chairman of the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The 14-member Nominating Committee considered 76 candidates for the contemporary category before selecting 10 finalists. The four candidates that received the most votes from the 182 voters in the United States and Canada were elected.

Members of the Nominating Committee are: Bowen, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, freelance writer and Museum trustee; Cot Campbell, president of Dogwood Stable; Steve Crist, publisher and columnist, Daily Racing Form; Jane Goldstein, turf writer and the retired Santa Anita Park publicist; Russ Harris, handicapper and turf writer, New York Daily News; Jay Hovdey, executive columnist, Daily Racing Form; Neil Milbert, formerly a turf writer at the Chicago Tribune, now a freelance writer; Leverett Miller, owner-breeder and Museum trustee; William Nack, freelance turf writer and author; Jay Privman, national correspondent, Daily Racing Form, and television racing analyst; John Sparkman,  bloodstock/sales editor, Thoroughbred Times; Clark Spencer, turf writer, Miami Herald; Michael Veitch, turf  writer and columnist, The Saratogian; John T. von Stade, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is free and open to the public.

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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