Bassett, Millerick, Pierce Elected to HOF

The group will be inducted Aug. 13 in a ceremony at 10:30 a.m. at Fasig-Tipton.

Nineteenth century Belmont Stakes winner Harry Bassett, trainer Michael Ernest “Buster” Millerick, and jockey Don Pierce have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame though the Historic Review Committee process.

The Historic Review electees join horses Azeri, Best Pal, and Point Given, and jockey Randy Romero, elected through the contemporary categories voting process, in the class of 2010. The group will be inducted Aug. 13 in a ceremony at 10:30 a.m. EST at the newly renovated Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion.

A son of the mighty sire Lexington, Harry Bassett was a champion at age 2 in 1870, unbeaten champion at 3, and a top handicapper at 4. He possessed tremendous stamina and won many of the most prestigious races of his day. Harry Bassett completed his career at 4 with a record of 23-5-3 from 36 starts and earnings of $55,920.       

Bred by A.J. Alexander and raised at Woodburn Farm in Kentucky, Harry Bassett was owned and trained by Col. David McDaniel.

In a career that spanned almost 50 years, California native Michael Ernest “Buster” Millerick became known as one of the best trainers on the West Coast, winning titles at Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Hollywood Park.

Millerick achieved his greatest success with Native Diver, a California-bred son of Imbros, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978. Under Millerick’s care, Native Diver won 37 races, including 34 stakes, and raced for seven seasons. 

Millerick, who earlier worked for Hall of Famer Tom Smith, won a total of 1,886 races and trained 54 individual stakes winners. Along with Native Diver, Millerick’s top horses included Countess Fleet, Count of Honor, Fleet Nasrullah, George Lewis and Kissin’ George.

Don Pierce rose from humble racing roots to become one of the big money riders of the 1960s and ’70s. A native of Clebit, Okla., Pierce began his career with a victory at New Mexico’s Ruidoso Downs in 1954 and went on to become one of the most accomplished jockeys on the Southern California circuit.

He led all North American jockeys with 32 stakes winners in 1973. In addition to his success in California, Pierce also won a riding title in New York at Belmont Park and captured several of Saratoga’s most prestigious races, including the Hopeful and Jim Dandy.

Among Pierce’s top mounts were Flying Paster, Hill Rise, Quack, Taisez Vous, La Zanzara, Triple Bend, Kennedy Road, Modus Vivendi, Forceten, Minstrel Miss, and Princessnessian.

Pierce was presented the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1967. After 30 years in the saddle, Pierce retired with 3,546 wins--351 of them stakes--from 28,740 mounts, for purse earnings of $39,018,422.

“I’ve had a lot of good things happen to me, but this tops them all,” said Pierce of the Hall of Fame induction. The retired rider, 73, hung up his riding tack more than 25 years ago. “I won a lot of big races and I’ve had so many good memories…I have them on my wall at home.”

Pierce said one of his favorite moments in racing involved a horse named Outing Class, winner of the 1962 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. 

“That was a great memory, and it was a feather in my cap, and it helped me get started in that part of the country,” he said.

“I also rode the horse Silky Sullivan after he flopped in the Kentucky Derby and came back down to California,” added Pierce, who rode the horse to victory in the 1958 Santa Anita Derby. “He brought the fans out by the thousands and all the publicity he got, I got, and he kind of put me on the lead. So I have fond memories of him.”

Following his riding career, Pierce trained horses for more than a decade, then had a short stint as a jockey’s agent. He is now an avid golfer in his retirement.