For the second consecutive year, no contemporary horses were elected to the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame. That is astonishing, considering some of the champions named on the ballot.
While the museum's Historic Review Committee voted turf champion Cougar II, trainer Carl Hanford, and jockey Bill Boland into the Hall of Fame, none of the six contemporary horses, three trainers, or three jockeys on the ballot received 75% of the votes required for induction.
Voting procedures were changed in 2005 to make induction into the Hall of Fame tougher after critics complained the standards for enshrinement were not high enough. In years past, a person or horse with the most votes in each of the four categories (trainer, jockey, male and female horses) was inducted, no matter how high or low the percentage he or she received. The Hall of Fame Committee releases very little information on the voting, but a report published in the Los Angeles Times
last year said some previous inductees received as little as 28% of the vote when each category contained five nominees.
Last year, when there were three finalists in each of the four categories, only trainer Nick Zito got 75% of the votes required. Procedures were adjusted again in 2006, giving voters the choice of saying "yes" or "no" to any or all of the finalists in each division with the hope that multiple "yes" votes on ballots would lead to more nominees reaching the 75% threshold. If more than one finalist in a category had 75% or more, the one with the highest number of votes would be inducted.
That obviously didn't happen in 2006. No one even got close. Among jockeys Eddie Maple, Craig Perret, and Alex Solis, none received more than 47%; among trainers Mel Stute, John Veitch, and Robert Wheeler, none got higher than 55%; among contemporary males Best Pal, Manila, and Silver Charm, none received more than 67%; among contemporary females Inside Information, Silverbulletday, or Sky Beauty, none received more than 63%.
Could someone explain to me how Inside Information, Silverbulletday, or Sky Beauty, to list three examples, are not worthy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame? Inside Information raced for three years, winning 14 of 17 starts, including six grade I races, the last of which, the 1995 Breeders' Cup Distaff, she won by 131⁄2 lengths. Silverbulletday, the last filly since Go for Wand to earn a championship at two and three, won 15 of 23 starts, five of them grade I. Sky Beauty raced four years, winning of 15 of 21 starts, 10 of then grade I.
These aren't Hall of Fame credentials? LEADERSHIP VOID
Magna Entertainment Corp. and Churchill Downs Inc. -- the two largest racetrack owners in North America -- are each on the lookout for a new chief executive. Tom Meeker's contract with Churchill Downs expires next year and Meeker said he will not be returning. Magna chairman Frank Stronach has temporarily replaced the departed James McAlpine as CEO while searching for a tech-savvy replacement.
Those aren't the only industry vacancies. D.G. Van Clief Jr.'s retirement later this year leaves a void at both the Breeders' Cup, where he has served as president, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, where he was commissioner. Then there is the uncertainty over the future of the New York Racing Association following the expiration of its franchise rights at the end of 2007.
Let's hope the industry has an easier time filling these vacancies than the Hall of Fame has had the last two years trying to induct racing greats.