Mel Stute was at his familiar haunt at Clockers' Corner on a spectacular Southern California morning Wednesday. The 75-year-old trainer also found himself in a familiar position, being one of three trainers among the annual nominees for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Inductees will be named April 29 at Churchill Downs, with the ceremony on Aug. 4 at Saratoga Springs, N.Y."It would mean a lot to me," Stute said of being elected to the Hall of Fame. "I'd love to do it, but I'm kind of ready for defeat, although you shouldn't be. "I know I've been nominated at least four, maybe five or six (times). I know one year, (Richard) Mandella beat me; one year, (Neil) Drysdale beat me; one other year, (Bud) Delp beat me, and another year it was (Phil) Johnson."Told that perhaps a Veterans Committee might have to elect him, as is done in Major League baseball, Stute laughed heartily. "They never did it before, but for some reason, they put Tom Smith (Seabiscuit's trainer) in," Stute said, referring to the action taken two years ago by majority vote of the Historic Revue Committee. "They put up one old horse every year, and he (Smith) must have been that year's old trainer. It's the first time I've ever heard of it."Never fortunate enough to train for any of the big-money operations in racing, Stute has nonetheless enjoyed many successful moments. Highlights include Eclipse Award winners Snow Chief, who won the 1986 Preakness (gr. I) and Brave Raj, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) the same year; Very Subtle, who upset the 1987 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) field; and Double Discount, who set a world record of 1:57 2/5 in winning the 1977 Carleton F. Burke at 1/14 mile on the grass.
Stute plans to run Buffythecenterfold in Sunday's $75,000 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs. The Landaluce and Sorrento winner worked five furlongs on Santa Anita's fast main track Tuesday morning in 1:01.40 in preparation for her first race since finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last Oct. 26 at Arlington Park.