Racing museum announces Hall of Fame finalists
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Six racehorses, four trainers, and one jockey account for the 11 finalists that will comprise the National Museum of Racing’s 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, as chosen by the Museum’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The finalists are racehorses Blind Luck, Game On Dude (first year of eligibility), Havre de Grace, Kona Gold, Rags to Riches, and Wise Dan (first year of eligibility); trainers Mark Casse, Christophe Clement, Doug O’Neill, and David Whiteley; and jockey Corey Nakatani.
Hall of Fame voters may select as many or as few candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. All candidates that receive 50 percent plus one vote (majority approval) of the voting panel will be elected to the Hall of Fame. All of the finalists were required to receive support from two-thirds of the Nominating Committee to qualify for the ballot.
Hall of Fame ballots will be mailed to the voting panel today. The results of the voting on the contemporary candidates will be announced May 6. That announcement will also include this year’s selections by the Museum’s Historic Review and Pillars of the Turf committees. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Aug. 7 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 91 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, thoroughbred industry participants, and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must be licensed for 25 years, while jockeys must be 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.
A chestnut filly bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, Blind Luck (Pollard’s 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 from 2009 through 2012. She won a total of 10 graded stakes in her career, including six Grade 1s: the Kentucky Oaks, Oak Leaf Stakes, Hollywood Starlet Stakes, Las Virgenes Stakes, 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 dark bay gelding bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, Game On Dude (Awesome Again–Worldly Pleasure, by Devil His Due) won 14 graded stakes, including eight Grade 1s. Racing from 2010 through 2014, he compiled a record of 16-7-1 from 34 starts and earnings of $6,498,893. Owned by Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC, and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude was trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. He is the only horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap three times (2011, 2013, 2014), setting a stakes record in the 2014 edition by covering 1¼ miles in 1:58.17. Game On Dude also won the Hollywood Gold Cup, San Antonio Stakes, and Goodwood twice each, as well as single editions of the Pacific Classic, Californian, Charles Town Classic, and Native Diver Handicap. In 2013, he swept the three signature Grade 1 races for older horses in California — the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic — becoming only the second horse to win those three events in a single year (Hall of Famer Lava Man was the first).
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 beat 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 Hall of Famer 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 gelding bred in Kentucky by Carlos Perez, Kona Gold (Java Gold–Double Sunrise, by Slew o’ Gold) won the Eclipse Award for Champion Sprinter in 2000, when he set a six-furlong track record at Churchill Downs in his Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory. Campaigned by Bruce Headley (who also served as his trainer), Irwin and Andrew Molasky, Michael Singh, et al, Kona Gold raced from 1998 through 2003 with a record of 14-7-2 from 30 starts and earnings of $2,293,384. He set a track record for 5½ furlongs at Santa Anita and won a total of 10 graded stakes. Kona Gold won multiple editions of the El Conejo Handicap, Bing Crosby Handicap, and Potrero Grande Breeders’ Handicap. He registered Beyer Speed Figures of 110 or higher 17 times. On 10 occasions, his Beyer Figure was 115 or higher, including a career-best of 123.
A chestnut filly bred in Kentucky by Skara Glen Stables, Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy–Better Than Honour, by Deputy Minister) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2007, a campaign highlighted by a historic victory in the Belmont Stakes. Trained by Todd Pletcher and Michael McCarthy for Michael B. Tabor and Derrick Smith, Rags to Riches broke her maiden in her second career start on Jan. 7, 2007 at Santa Anita. That six-length victory was the beginning of a five-race win streak. The next four wins were all Grade 1s: the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks (by 5½ lengths) in California; the Kentucky Oaks (by 4¼ lengths); and the Belmont in New York. In the Belmont, Rags to Riches defeated two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Curlin by a head to become the first filly in 102 years to win the third jewel of the Triple Crown. Rags to Riches remains one of only three fillies to win the 1½-mile Belmont. She finished second in her next race, the Grade 1 Gazelle, and a right front leg injury was discovered after the race. A 4-year-old campaign was being planned for Rags to Riches, but she re-injured her right front pastern and was retired with a record of 5-1-0 from seven starts and earnings of $1,342,528.
A chestnut gelding bred in Kentucky by owner Morton Fink, Wise Dan (Wiseman’s Ferry–Lisa Danielle, by Wolf Power) was Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013 and also earned the Eclipse Awards for Champion Older Male and Champion Male Turf Horse in each of those years for a total of six Eclipse Awards. He won the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita in both 2012 and 2013. Trained by Charles LoPresti, Wise Dan raced from 2010 through 2014, compiling a career record of 23-2-0 from 31 starts and earnings of $7,552,920. He won a total of 19 graded stakes on turf, dirt, and synthetic, including 11 Grade 1 events. Wise Dan won two editions each of the Fourstardave Handicap, Shadwell Turf Mile, Maker’s Mark Mile, Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Firecracker Handicap, and Woodbine Mile (setting a course record of 1:31.75 in 2013). He won at seven different tracks.
Casse, 59, has won 2,850 races to date with purse earnings of more than $173 million (ninth 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 11 times. He has won five Breeders’ Cup races and trained four Eclipse Award winners: Shamrock Rose, World Approval, Classic Empire, and Tepin, who won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2016. In 2019, Casse won two-thirds of the American Triple Crown, winning the Preakness Stakes with War of Will and the Belmont Stakes with Sir Winston.
Along with his perennial success in Canada, Casse, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., has won four training titles at Turfway Park, two at Keeneland, and one at Churchill Downs. He has won seven races in the Canadian Triple Crown series — including the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales in 2018 with Wonder Gadot — and a total of 163 graded stakes. Casse has trained 18 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, Got Stormy, and Victory to Victory, among others.
Clement, 54, has won 1,990 races to date with purse earnings of more than $133 million (13th all time) in a career that began in 1991. Clement trained three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, winner of four straight Grade 1s on the turf in 2009, as well as 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, who won consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2014 and 2015. Clement has won 241 graded stakes, including multiple editions of the Man o’ War, Shadwell Turf Mile, Manhattan Handicap, Diana, Sword Dancer, Beverly D., and Del Mar Oaks, among others.
A native of Paris, France, Clement began his career in the United States by winning with the first horse he saddled, Spectaculaire, on Oct. 20, 1991 at Belmont. He has since trained 18 horses that have earned $1 million or more. Other Grade 1 winners trained by Clement include Relaxed Gesture, Forbidden Apple, Voodoo Dancer, Rutherienne, Winchester, Discreet Marq, and Mauralanka, among others.
O’Neill, 51, has won 2,473 races to date with purse earnings of more than $134 million (12th all time) in a career that began in 1988. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and the Derby in 2016 with Nyquist. O’Neill has trained five Eclipse Award winners: Thor’s Echo, Stevie Wonderboy, Maryfield, I’ll Have Another, and Nyquist and won five Breeders’ Cup races.
A native of Dearborn, Mich., O’Neill won nine graded stakes with Hall of Fame member Lava Man, including three editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup and two runnings each of the Santa Anita Handicap, Pacific Classic, and Charles E. Whittingham Memorial Handicap. O’Neill has won five training titles at Del Mar, where in 2015 he became the first trainer to ever win five races on a card there. He has also won four training titles at Santa Anita, including a record 56-win meet in the winter of 2006-2007, and ranks ninth all time there with 556 wins. He has trained 11 horses that have earned $1 million or more. O’Neill’s major wins include the Santa Anita Derby, Breeders’ Futurity, Donn Handicap, Florida Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, Godolphin Mile, and Japan Cup Dirt.
Whiteley, who died in 2017 at the age of 72, won 454 races and had purse earnings of more than $11 million in a career that spanned from 1970 through 1995, an era when trainers generally had far smaller barns than today. He trained Eclipse Award winners Waya (inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019), Revidere, and Just a Game. Whiteley won the Belmont Stakes in 1979 with Coastal, thwarting the Triple Crown hopes of Spectacular Bid.
A native of Easton, Md., Whiteley won 22 percent of his career starts (454 for 2,068), including 45 graded stakes. His Grade 1 winners included Highland Blade, French Colonial, Instrument Landing, May Day Eighty, Northernette, and Tiller. Whiteley’s major wins included the Coaching Club American Oaks, Haskell Invitational, Wood Memorial, Diana Handicap, Brooklyn Handicap, Delaware Handicap, Beldame, Top Flight Handicap, Flower Bowl Handicap, Monmouth Oaks, Santa Barbara Handicap, and Man o’ War, among others.
Nakatani, 49, won 3,909 races with purse earnings of $234,554,534 million (12th all time) in a career that spanned from 1988 to 2018. He ranks 12th all time in career earnings and won 341 graded stakes. Nakatani won 10 Breeders’ Cup races (one of only 10 riders to do so), including four editions of the Sprint. He 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 included multiple editions of the Kentucky Oaks, Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Derby, Eddie Read Handicap, Del Mar Oaks, Beverly D., and Hollywood Gold Cup, among others. He also won the Golden Shaheen in Dubai.
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 2006-2007, 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.
Chaired by Edward L. Bowen, the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee is comprised of Bowen, Steven Crist, Tom Durkin, Bob Ehalt, Tracy Gantz, Teresa Genaro, Jane Goldstein, Steve Haskin, Jay Hovdey, Tom Law, Neil Milbert, Jay Privman, John Sparkman, Michael Veitch, John von Stade, and Charlotte Weber.
For more information about the museum, including special events and program offerings, call (518) 584-0400 or visit our website at www.racingmuseum.org.