"There is no crying in horse racing" - at least, there's not supposed to be. But at the induction ceremony for new members of the Racing Hall of Fame on Monday, tears seemed a requirement.
Ellen Hunt, daughter of owner Mary Jones Bradley, began with the dispensing of saline. Dressed in a smart chocolate top that buttoned up the front and slacks that draped at the ankle smoothly, she slipped in emotion on the very last sentence of her even-handed speech when she thought back to her mother and wished that she, and not her, would be accepting Cougar II's award.
Then jockey Bill Boland abandoned his prepared manuscript, stood silent for a few seconds, and began to choke up. "I can't talk," explained the winner of the 1950 Kentucky Derby on Middleground at the age of 16.
"Nobody rode better than he did," said trainer Allen Jerkens in his presentation of Boland to the crowd. Well, it turned out that few are able to accept praise as eloquently also.
"A good horse is dangerous in anybody's hands," said a humble Carl Hanford, the 90-year-old former trainer of Kelso, when his turn at the podium arrived. In a strong voice, he expressed the idea that his wife Millie, his "greatest supporter," and Alaire duPont, who owned Kelso, deserved the attention. "I wish they could have been here," Hanford said about the recently deceased women. "Maybe they are," he ended.
As the keynote speaker, race caller Tom Durkin had little to say, but it took him a long time to say it. Bellowing into the microphone, Durkin seemed more pre-occupied with calling attention to his humor than his subject, even though his audience rose to its feet once he finished.
It's been several years since Sports Illustrated
writer Frank Deford filled the keynote speaker's role exceptionally, but then, of course, there's always tomorrow. Nevertheless, year after year, this conclave proves to be one of the season's most pleasant mornings, and Monday was no exception.
Appropriately, no mention was made that Cougar II, Boland and Hanford were selected by the Hall's Historic Review Committee, instead of by conventional means. None of the 12 finalists in the contemporary racing categories qualified for induction by receiving at least 75% of the votes cast, and, consequently, the voting system will have to be amended if this isn't to happen again.
Given the brevity of the acceptance speeches, and despite the lengthy introductions of 16 former inductees (invitations were extended to the no-shows D. Wayne Lukas and Mike Smith), the goings-on were over in an hour and a half, and those people who attended (a smaller audience than usual) were off to the races.
On the track, the one horse in the Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) field that was trained by a Hall of Fame trainer won the race. Bill Mott saddled the undefeated After Market, a son of Storm Cat
, for his fourth career victory. Cornelio Velasquez rode the dark bay or brown colt.