Point Given, the 2001 Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male, is among six equine finalists for election to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Two jockeys and two trainers also are finalists. Under the revised format announced earlier, all the candidates are grouped together rather than being divided into categories.
Voters will be asked to vote for as many as four and are not required to include one from each type of candidate. The four with the highest number of votes will be elected. The nominees were selected by the Hall of Fame nominating committee from a total of 76 candidates suggested throughout the year by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants, and racing fans.
“The revised system creates the possibility that we might have more than one Hall of Famer from one group and none from another,” said Edward L. Bowen, chairman of the nominating committee.
The nominees include contemporary female horses, contemporary male horses, jockeys, and trainers. To be eligible, trainers must have been active for 25 years and jockeys must have been active for 20 years. Horses must have been retired for five years. All must have been active within the past 25 years. A separate historic review committee is assigned to consider participants from farther back in history.
The nominees are equines Azeri, Best Pal, Open Mind, Point Given, Safely Kept, and Sky Beauty; jockeys Randy Romero and Alex Solis; and trainers Gary Jones and Robert Wheeler.
Azeri won 17 of her 24 starts, including three consecutive runnings of the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I), and posted a dozen grade I wins during her career. She was named Horse of the Year in 2002 and champion older female in 2002-04. She retired as the all-time leader in earnings among females ($4,079,820, since surpassed by Zenyatta).
Best Pal was a durable gelding who raced seven years. He won 18 of 47 starts, including six grade I events. Best Pal is one of only four horses to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Charles H. Strub Stakes, all grade I.
Open Mind was the champion 2-year-old filly of 1988 when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). She won 12 of her 19 career starts, including the New York Filly Triple Crown (Acorn, Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks, all grade I) as well as the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at age 3. Open Mind posted a 10-race win streak, which included seven grade I events. She was a champion at 3 and finished her career with nine graded wins among her 11 stakes victories.
Point Given was Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male of 2001. That year, Point Given dominated in the San Felipe (gr. II) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) before finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). However, he rebounded to win the Preakness (gr. I), Belmont (gr. I), Haskell (gr. I), and Travers (gr. I) in succession, all of which were $1-million events. Point Given was retired with nine victories in 13 starts and earnings of $3,968,500.
Safely Kept raced four years, winning 24 of her 31 starts and accumulating earnings of $2,194,206. She won four of her five starts as a 2-year-old in 1988 and then took eight of her nine races at age 3 to earn the Eclipse Award as top sprinter. At 4, Safely Kept was a perfect seven-for-seven. Each victory was in a stakes race and culminated with a triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). She concluded her career with five wins in seven starts as a 5-year-old.
Sky Beauty won 15 of her 21 starts and had purse earnings of $1,336,000 in her four-year career. She posted a five-race win streak at age 3, which included the New York Filly Triple Crown and the Alabama Stakes. At age 4, Sky Beauty posted another five-race win streak, including a 10-length romp in the Go for Wand (gr. I). Nine of Sky Beauty’s 15 wins were in grade I races.
Romero won 4,294 races from 26,091 mounts (16%) and had purse earnings of $75,264,198 in a career that dated from 1973-99. He was the regular rider of two of the most spectacular fillies of his era, Go for Wand and the undefeated Personal Ensign. He won Breeders’ Cup races on both of them, as well as a Breeders’ Cup on another distaffer, Sacahuista. Romero won 122 graded stakes and 342 overall stakes and earned riding titles at 10 tracks, including Belmont, Arlington, Gulfstream, Keeneland and Fair Grounds.
Solis began his career in 1981 and continues to ride at an elite level today. Through 2009, he had 4,760 wins from 31,424 mounts (15%) and purse earnings of $218,003,546. Among his victories are 299 graded stakes and 586 overall stakes. Solis won the Preakness, Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby (gr. I), and Jersey Derby (gr. II) with Snow Chief and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) with Pleasantly Perfect. He ended Cigar’s 16-race win streak aboard Dare in Go in the 1996 Pacific Classic (gr. I) and snapped Azeri’s consecutive win streak at 11 with Got Koko on the 2003 Lady’s Secret Handicap (gr. II). Solis has won 16 meeting titles on the Southern California circuit.
Jones won 1,465 races from 7,900 starts (18.5%), including 102 graded stakes and 233 overall stakes, and had purse earnings of $52,672,611. He won 15 meeting titles on the Southern California circuit. Jones twice won the Santa Anita Handicap and trained 1986 champion older male Turkoman.
Wheeler trained from 1938 right up until his death in 1992. He won 1,336 races and trained for prominent owners such as C.V. Whitney, J. Rukin Jelks, Greentree Stable, and Nelson Bunker Hunt. Wheeler conditioned 56 stakes winners, including Track Robbery, the 1982 champion older female. The majority of his career predates the grading of races, but from 1976 on he won 18 of the 69 graded stakes (26%) his horses ran in and 44 of his 175 (25%) overall stakes attempts.
The results of the vote on contemporary candidates will be announced on May 28. The induction ceremonies will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sale Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Friday, August 13, at 10:30 a.m. The ceremonies are free and open to the public.