Inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1971, jockey Albert Johnson is among the 2006 inductees to the Washington Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. Enshrined alongside Johnson this year is the horse Sir William, trainer Francis Keller, and breeder C J Sebastian.
Born in Milan, Wash., Johnson began his riding career at Playfair Racecourse in Spokane. Johnson rode from 1917 through 1929, winning 503 races. He was the nation's leading money-winning rider in 1922, the same year he rode Exterminator to victories in the Saratoga Cup, the Brooklyn Handicap, the Kentucky Handicap, and the Toronto Autumn Cup.
Johnson won the Kentucky Derby twice, prevailing with Morvich (1922) and Bubbling Over (1926) and captured consecutive Belmont Stakes on American Flag (1925) and Crusader (1926).
Sir William, a 1954 foal bred in Washington by Herb Armstrong, prevailed in the 1957 Santa Anita Derby when defeating the champion runner Round Table. Although graded stakes were not introduced until 1973, under the current grading system Sir William would be recognized as the first grade I Washington-bred winner with his Santa Anita Derby victory. Trained by Cecil Jolly for owners Mr. and Mrs. Herb Armstrong, Sir William would also win the Los Feliz Stakes in 1957.
Francis Keller is the only female trainer in history with two victories in the Longacres Mile, winning the most prestigious race in the Northwest with Pala Squaw in 1940 and Amble In in 1946. Keller won training titles at Longacres in 1940 and 1946 and was the first female trainer to win the Gottstein Futurity after saddling Happy Valley to victory in the 1947 edition of the race. Keller also won the 1942 Independence Day Handicap with Campus Fusser and the 1944 Spokane Handicap with Prince Ernest, two of the state's all-time great Thoroughbreds.
Sebastian Farm, located in Kirkland, Wash., was the leading Washington breeder by earnings in 1961, 1962 and 1963 --as well as top breeder by wins in 1963. Sebastian bred 1962 Washington Horse of the Year Dusky Damion, who became the state's all-time leading money earner in 1964 with $138,295 banked, and whose half-brother, Dr. John H., was a champion 3-year-old colt.
The Washington Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame "Class of 2006" will be inducted during a banquet held at Emerald Downs on Sept. 16.