A tearful Carolyn Hine, wife of the late Hubert "Sonny" Hine, graciously accepted the announcement of her husband's induction into the Racing Hall of Fame at a press conference at Churchill Downs the morning of April 29. Hine, who trained Horse of the Year Skip Away, joins jockey Mike Smith, Precisionist, and Dance Smartly into the Hall of Fame class of 2003. They will be enshrined into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at a special induction ceremony on Aug. 4 at the Fasig-Tipton sale pavilion in Saratoga Springs.
"It's amazing. I guess we're all guilty of the same things. We wish for things, we pray for things, we hope for things...and my prayers have been answered," Hine said. "Unfortunately, there are not enough words in the world to express how I feel today. The only thing that I regret is that my husband is not here to accept this. I feel I'm a poor substitute, but I can only do my best and I'll look up and tell him, 'I won't disappoint you.' I'm very proud of my husband."
Hine purchased Skip Away as a 2-year-old for $30,000 as a birthday gift for his wife. After the horse vetted out, it was discovered he had a chip in an ankle and the horse was returned. Hine thought more about the horse and went back and purchased the horse for $22,500, with $7,500 earmarked for the surgery. The surgery never took place. Named champion 3-year-old male in 1996, and champion older male in 1997 after winning the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), Skip Away was North America's Horse of the Year in 1998 after winning five grade I stakes. Skip Away won 18 of 38 starts and earned $9,616,360, second in all-time North America earnings behind Cigar.
"Skippy stamped my heart," Carolyn Hine said. When asked what his best victory was, she paused, and said, "Maybe, maybe, it was when he beat Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (in 1997). He's one of only two horses to win back-to-back Gold Cups. The other? Kelso. How do I know? My good friend Joe Hirsch told me."
Hine, who died at age 69 on March 17, 2000, was no one-horse trainer. He trained his first stakes winner in 1972 and also conditioned 1981 champion sprinter Guilty Conscience. Hine trained 46 stakes winners including Skip Trial (the sire of Skip Away), Amber Pass, Technology, Norquestor, Miss Legality, and Patton. His career earnings surpassed $28 million.
"We were married for 38 years and never had a vacation. We never had a honeymoon and we had no children," Carolyn Hine said. "He gave his life to the horses and to the industry. We used to joke sometimes, and I said if we put things on a totem pole, I know number one are the horses, number two are the cats, and I make show.
"When I was told of his election, I just fell apart," she said. "I just looked out the window and kept thanking God. When they called, they swear you to secrecy and I told them I had to tell one person. I have to go to the cemetery and tell Sonny. I just wish the man were here."
The 37-year-old Smith makes the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. The winner of two Eclipse Awards (1993-94), Smith has won 10 Breeders' Cup races and two classic races: the 1993 Preakness (gr. I) aboard Prairie Bayou and the 1991 Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) aboard Fourstars Allstar.
Smith was planning on flying to Louisville for the announcement, but after falling in two separate races on Saturday, decided to stay home. Smith beat out other jockey finalists Eddie Maple and Randy Romero.
Precisionist, champion sprinter of 1985, won that year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) and five other grade I events in his career. A foal of 1981, Precisionist (Crozier--Excellently, by Forli) was bred and owned by Fred W. Hooper. Known for his versatility, he won 20 of 46 starts and earned $3,485,398 while winning from six furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. Precisionist heads to the Hall of Fame after outpolling other male nominees Ancient Title and Manila.
Dance Smartly was the first filly to sweep Canada's Triple Crown, completing the feat in 1991 by a combined margin of 18 lengths. She also captured the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) that fall and was named North America's champion 3-year-old filly as well as Canada's Horse of the Year. Ernie Samuel's Sam-Son Farms bred and raced the daughter of Danzig, out of the Smarten mare Classy 'n Smart, who won 12 of 17 starts and earned $3,263,835. As a broodmare, two of her foals have won the Queen's Plate, Canada's premier race for 3-year-olds. Dance Smartly got the nod over Flawlessly and Sky Beauty.