Because the people and horses elected to racing’s Hall of Fame are revealed each spring prior to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), the induction ceremony in August at Saratoga is more of a celebration than a news-making event. But this year’s induction provided a surprise.
Edward L. Bowen, chairman of the Hall of Fame committee, announced to a standing-room-only crowd that Tom Smith, best-known for training Seabiscuit, will join the day’s previously scheduled honorees in the sport’s most prestigious shrine.
Smith was elected to the Hall of Fame by a majority vote of the Historic Review Committee, which examines the careers of individuals whose accomplishments may not have received full consideration in the past. The Historic Review Committee had acted before, electing such overlooked horsemen as jockey George Barbee and trainer Ansel Williamson. However, this year marked the first time one of the panel’s choices had been announced during the induction ceremony, according to Dick Hamilton, communications director for the National Museum of Racing, where the Hall of Fame is located. Smith’s induction will take place during next August’s ceremony.
Smith, who died in 1957, was one of racing’s most colorful figures. A native of Georgia, he moved to California as a child. As a young ranch hand, he participated in one of the West’s last great cattle drives. He then spent a number of years in the Wild West Show of C.B. (Cowboy) Irwin. Smith got involved in racing when he went to work in Irwin’s Thoroughbred stable.
In addition to Seabiscuit, who defeated Triple Crown winner War Admiral in the 1938 Pimlico Special to clinch Horse of the Year honors, prominent horses saddled by Smith include Star Pilot, Kayak II, Mioland, Beaugay, and Myrtle Charm. Smith retired from training in 1954. Seabiscuit was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1958.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held on Aug. 7 at the Fasig-Tipton Company’s Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion. In addition to the announcement of Smith’s election, this year’s festivities were notable because they featured the induction of the first woman, jockey Julie Krone, and the first keynote address by a woman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley.
Because of her short stature, Krone had to stand on a plastic crate in order to reach the microphone to deliver her acceptance speech. She did not address the gender issues associated with her induction. Instead, she focused on her love of horses and offered a sentimental review of her life and career. She described her experiences as a 5-year-old with a beloved pony; told about how she watched Steve Cauthen on television and dreamed of being a jockey; and recalled having to climb a fence to get on the Tampa Bay Downs backstretch because she did not have a license.
“I wish every one of you here, in this room, could be on a racehorse at the eighth pole,” Krone said. “The feeling of doing something and communicating with these animals that I love so much…I got to do that every single day of my life. Now I’m standing up here, and I’m being honored by all the people I admired. I’m in awe of everyone, the horses, the sport, and everything I got to participate in. Today, I know for sure that life does not get any better.”
Krone received her plaque, which lists her career accomplishments, from Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard and former Pimlico executive Chick Lang.
Krone won 3,545 races in her career and her mounts earned more than $81 million. Both figures are records for a female jockey. In 1993, she became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race when she rode Colonial Affair to victory in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Smiley, the author of 10 works of fiction, said the Pulitzer Prize she won in 1992 did not change her life, but her decision to acquire a Thoroughbred gelding, while in the throes of a midlife crisis, did. She ended up moving from Iowa to California. She bought boots, a helmet, and other riding equipment. She also bought a farm and more horses. Named Terson, the gelding taught Smiley such important lessons as to pay attention, relax, and to ask for help. All of her experiences eventually inspired her to write a book about the Thoroughbred industry called Horse Heaven.
In addition to Krone, trainer Neil Drysdale and the racehorses A.P. Indy, Winning Colors, and Needles were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Presenting Drysdale’s Hall of Fame plaque was Peggy Whittingham, the widow of Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham. Drysdale worked as an assistant to Whittingham before going out on his own in 1974.
“If Charlie was here, he would be so proud of you,” Peggy Whittingham told Drysdale.
Whittingham was mentioned by Drysdale in his speech as one of the people who had influenced his career the most. According to Drysdale one of Whittingham’s favorite comments about him was the following: “I taught him everything he knows, but not all that I know.”
A.P. Indy, the 1992 Horse of the Year, was the third runner trained by Drysdale to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, following Bold ’n Determined and Princess Rooney. The son of Seattle Slew’s plaque was presented by Jay Privman, president of the National Turf Writers Association, to retired bloodstock agent Noel O’Callaghan. Formerly associated with BBA (Ireland), O’Callaghan purchased A.P. Indy, on the behalf of Tomonori Tsurumaki, at the 1990 Keeneland July select yearling sale for $2.9 million.
Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell, a trustee of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, presented Winning Colors’ plaque to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Saddled by Lukas, Winning Colors captured the Kentucky Derby in 1988, becoming only the third filly to win the Run for the Roses. She also won an Eclipse Award that year.
In his speech, Lukas recalled the first time he saw Winning Colors in July of 1986 at the Keeneland select sale. Acting on the behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Klein, the trainer purchased her for $575,000.
“My heart was pounding,” he said, “and my stomach had that little flip in it you get sometimes when you see one of the (special) ones.”
Needles’ plaque was presented by Dave Erb, the jockey who rode the son of Ponder to victory in the 1956 Kentucky Derby and other big races. Accepting were Scott Dudley and Bonnie Heath III, the sons of Jackson Dudley and Bonnie M. Heath, respectively, who campaigned the bay runner. Needles was the first Florida-bred Thoroughbred to earn national championship honors.
“This horse made Florida what it is today, the best place in the world to raise a horse,” Bonnie Heath III said. DINGBAT