National Museum of Racing Announces 2018 Hall of Fame Finalists

Gio Ponti (#7) got run down by Zenyatta (#4) and had to settle for second in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Photo by © Breeders’ Cup/Todd Buchanan 2009).

Four racehorses, three jockeys and three trainers account for the 10 finalists selected to the National Museum of Racing’s 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, as chosen by the Museum’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The finalists are: racehorses Blind Luck, Gio Ponti, Havre de Grace and Heavenly Prize; jockeys Robby Albarado, Corey Nakataki and Craig Perret; and trainers Mark Casse, John Shirreffs and David Whiteley.

Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. All candidates that receive majority approval (50.1 percent or higher) of the voting panel will be elected to the Hall of Fame. The former rule capping the number of inductees at four has been eliminated by the Museum’s Executive Committee. All the finalists were required to support from two-thirds of the Nominating Committee to qualify for the ballot.

Hall of Fame ballots will be mailed to the voting panel on March 1. The results of the voting on the contemporary candidates will be announced on Monday, April 16. The induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Friday, Aug. 3 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony will be open to the public and is free to attend.

The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s Nominating Committee from a total of 90 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must have been licensed for 25 years, while jockeys must have been licensed for 20 years. Thoroughbreds are required to be retired for five calendar years before becoming eligible. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. The 20- and 25-year requirements for jockeys and trainers, respectively, may be waived, at the discretion of the Museum’s Executive Committee. Candidates not active within the past 25 years are eligible through the Historic Review process.

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A chestnut filly bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, Blind Luck (Pollards Vision—Lucky One, by Best of Luck) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2010. A multiple Grade 1 winner at ages 2 and 3, Blind Luck was also a Grade 1 winner at 4. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by Hollendorfer in partnership with Mark DeDomenico LLC, John Carver and Peter Abruzzo, Blind Luck posted a career record of 12-7-2 from 22 starts and earnings of $3,279,520. She won a total of 10 graded stakes in her career, including six Grade 1s: the Oak Leaf Stakes, Hollywood Starlet Stakes, Las Virgenes Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Alabama Stakes and Vanity Handicap. Throughout her career, Blind Luck defeated the likes of Havre de Grace (three times), Life At Ten, Unrivaled Belle, Evening Jewel, Devil May Care and Switch.

A bay colt bred in Kentucky by Kilboy Estate, Inc., Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat—Chipeta Springs, by Alydar) won the Eclipse Award for Champion Turf Male in 2009 and 2010 and the Eclipse for Champion Older Male in 2009. Racing from 2007 through 2011, Gio Ponti posted a career record of 12-10-1 from 29 starts and earned $6,169,800. Owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti won 10 graded stakes, including seven Grade 1s. His Grade 1 wins included consecutive editions of both the Man o’ War Stakes in 2009 and 2010 and the Shadwell Turf Mile in 2010 and 2011. Gio Ponti also finished second in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic to Hall of Famer Zenyatta and second in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Mile to Hall of Famer Goldikova.

A bay filly bred in Kentucky by Nancy S. Dillman, Havre de Grace (Saint Liam—Easter Brunette, by Carson City) won the Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and Champion Older Mare in 2011. Trained by Anthony Dutrow at ages 2 and 3 and by Larry Jones thereafter, Havre de Grace was campaigned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms throughout her career. After finishing second to champion Blind Luck in thrilling editions of the Delaware Oaks and Alabama in 2010, Havre de Grace earned her first graded stakes victory later that year in the Cotillion (G2). In her 2011 Horse of the Year campaign, she topped Blind Luck in the Azeri (G2) and went on to win Grade 1s in the Apple Blossom, Woodward (defeating males, including Flat Out) and Beldame (defeating champion Royal Delta). Havre de Grace made one start as a 5-year-old in 2012, winning the listed New Orleans Ladies’ Stakes before being retired with a career record of 9-4-2 from 16 starts and earnings of $2,586,175.

A bay filly bred in Kentucky by owner Ogden Phipps, Heavenly Prize (Seeking the Gold—Oh What a Dance, by Nijinsky II) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 1994. Trained by Hall of Famer Claude R. “Shug” McGaughey III, Heavenly Prize won the Grade 1 Frizette at age 2 and three consecutive Grade 1s as a 3-year-old: the Alabama, Gazelle and Beldame. As a 4-year-old, she won four Grade 1s in a row: the Apple Blossom, Hempstead, Go for Wand and John A. Morris handicaps. Heavenly Prize also finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in both 1994 and 1995. She was retired with a career record of 9-6-3 from 18 starts and earnings of $1,825,940. Throughout her career, Heavenly Prize defeated the likes of Hall of Famers Paseana and Sky Beauty, as well as standout Lakeway. Eight of her nine career wins were in Grade 1 events.

Jockey Robbie Albarado is one of three finalists among riders for the Hall of Fame class of 2018.

Albarado, 44, has won 5,115 races to date with purse earnings of more than $214 million in a career that began in 1990. He ranks 13th all time in career earnings and has won 208 graded stakes, including three Breeders’ Cup races. The regular rider of two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame member Curlin, as well as Horse of the Year Mineshaft, Albarado has won seven riding titles at Fair Grounds, four at Keeneland, two at Oaklawn and one each at Arlington and Churchill Downs. He also won the 2004 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.

Albarado has ranked among the top 15 North American jockeys in earnings 10 times and in wins four times. With 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin, Albarado won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Preakness, Woodward, Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster and two editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Pimlico Special, Suburban and Woodward with 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft. In the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile, Albarado piloted Court Vision to a stunning victory at odds of 64.80 to 1, defeating three-time winner Goldikova in the process.

Nakatani, 47, has won 3,893 races to date with purse earnings of more than $233 million in a career that began in 1988. He ranks 12th all time in career earnings and has won 340 graded stakes. Nakatani has won 10 Breeders’ Cup races, including four editions of the Sprint. He has won three riding titles at Del Mar, two at Santa Anita and one at Hollywood Park, as well as four Oak Tree meetings. His major victories include multiple editions of the Kentucky Oaks, Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Derby, Eddie Read Handicap, Del Mar Oaks and Hollywood Gold Cup, among others.

Nakatani won five Grade 1 races with Hall of Famer Lava Man. He also won multiple stakes with Hall of Famer Serena’s Song, as well as Eclipse Award winners Shared Belief and Sweet Catomine. Nakatani won a record 19 stakes during a single meet at Santa Anita in 2006-07, breaking the previous record held by Hall of Famer Laffit Pincay, Jr. Nakatani ranks eighth all time in stakes wins at Santa Anita with 131 and ninth in overall wins at Santa Anita with 1,033. He also stands second all time at Del Mar with 104 stakes wins.

Perret, 67, won 4,415 races with purse earnings of more than $113 million in a career that spanned from 1967 through 2005. The Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey in 1990 and the leading apprentice by earnings in 1967 (prior to the Eclipse Awards), Perret won the Belmont Stakes in 1987 with Bet Twice by 14 lengths, denying Alysheba the Triple Crown. Three years later, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled. The regular rider of Hall of Famers Housebuster and Safely Kept, Perret won four Breeders’ Cup races and totaled 208 graded stakes wins.

Perret, who won two riding titles at both Arlington and Monmouth, won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1988. Grade 1 wins for Perret include the Acorn, American Derby, Ashland, Carter Handicap (2), Coaching Club American Oaks, Florida Derby, Haskell (4), Hopeful, Jerome Handicap, Laurel Futurity, Monmouth Oaks, Oaklawn Handicap, Pimlico Special, Sword Dancer, Test, Travers (2), Wood Memorial and Vosburgh, among others.

Casse, 57, has won 2,429 races to date with purse earnings of more than $142 million (eighth all time) in a career that began in 1979. A 2016 Canadian Racing Hall of Fame inductee, Casse has won the Sovereign Award for Outstanding Trainer in Canada a record nine times and owns 12 training titles at Woodbine. He has won four Breeders’ Cup races and currently trains reigning Eclipse Award winner World Approval. Casse also trained Eclipse Award winners Tepin and Classic Empire.

Along with his perennial success in Canada, Casse has won four training titles at Turfway Park, two at Keeneland and one at Churchill Downs. He has won five races in the Canadian Triple Crown series and a total of 136 graded stakes. Casse has trained 14 horses that have earned $1 million or more. Other Grade 1 winners trained by Casse include Catch a Glimpse, Pool Play, Noble Bird, Spring in the Air, Exciting Story, La Coronel and Victory to Victory, among others.

Shirreffs, 72, became a licensed trainer in 1978 and to date has won 470 races with purse earnings of more than $45 million. He trained 2010 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame member Zenyatta, winner in 19 of her 20 career starts and the all-time earnings leader among female racehorses with more than $7.3 million. Under the guidance of Shirreffs, Zenyatta won 13 Grade 1 races, including the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic, as well as four Eclipse Awards.

John A Sherreffs during the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships after Zenyatta won the Classic.. Photo by © Breeders’ Cup/Todd Buchanan 2009

In 2005, Shirreffs won the Kentucky Derby with Giacomo at odds of 50 to 1. Shirreffs also won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic in 2009 with Life Is Sweet. Other Grade 1 winners trained by Shirreffs include Tiago, Manistique, Hollywood Story, After Market, Harmonious, Starrer, Tarlow and Gormley.

Whiteley, who died in 2017 at the age of 73, won 678 races and had purse earnings of more than $11 million in a career that spanned from 1970 through 1995. He trained Eclipse Award winners Waya, Revidere and Just a Game and won the Belmont Stakes in 1979 with Coastal, thwarting the Triple Crown hopes of Spectacular Bid.

A winner of 32.7 percent of his career starts (678 for 2,068), Whiteley won 45 graded stakes. His Grade 1 winners included Highland Blade, French Colonial, Instrument Landing May Day Eighty, Northernette and Tiller.

Chaired by Edward L. Bowen, the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee is comprised of Bowen, Cot Campbell, Steven Crist, Tom Durkin, Bob Ehalt, Tracy Gantz, Teresa Genaro, Jane Goldstein, Steve Haskin, Jay Hovdey, Tom Law, Leverett Miller, Neil Milbert, Bill Nack, Jay Privman, John Sparkman, John von Stade and Charlotte Weber.

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