Robert and Beverly Lewis join D. Wayne Lukas in welcoming Serena's Song into the racing Hall of Fame.

Robert and Beverly Lewis join D. Wayne Lukas in welcoming Serena's Song into the racing Hall of Fame.

Skip Dickstein

Hall of Fame Induction: Superiority Complex

It was a day for superlatives. And there were plenty to go around at the induction ceremonies for the Class of 2002 at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. While the brightest star the morning of Aug. 5 was Cigar, North America's all-time leading money earner and contemporary male inductee, it was trainer D. Wayne Lukas who set the tone for the day.

While introducing Bob and Beverly Lewis, owners of Serena's Song, this year's contemporary female inductee, Lukas reflected on Thoroughbred racing's elite group. "It's amazing how the great horses seem to migrate to wonderful people. Our industry is full of wonderful people--and I'm not talking about the racing industry, but people that have done so much for society. If there is a racing god somewhere, it seems like the good horses seem to migrate to those people. I think Serena's Song is an example of that."

But Cigar, Serena's Song, and this year's horse of yesteryear, Noor, weren't just good horses. They now are Hall of Fame caliber. So, too, are trainer Grover "Bud" Delp and jockey Jack Westrope, who were also inducted.

"They ultimately affected their lives forever," Lukas said of horses like Serena's Song. "Just looking around the room; Bud Delp, his 'Bid' and how he changed his life; Bill (Mott) and Jerry (Bailey), how Cigar changed their lives and the Paulson family, what he did for them; Penny's (Chenery) Secretariat; Johnny Nerud's Dr. Fager...and it goes on and on."

Cigar not only changed the life of his breeder and owner, the late Allen Paulson, but he made a lasting imprint on international modern-day racing with his victory in the inaugural Dubai World Cup in March of 1996. Cigar's plaque was presented to Paulson's widow, Madeleine, by Les Benton, chairman of the Dubai World Cup.

"He brought a new audience to horse racing and his name was as instantly recognizable as champions in all other sports," Benton said. "The history of horse racing is littered with champions, but Cigar is a member of a select group. He managed to take our great sport from the back pages to the front. He focused a whole new audience on horse racing."

Cigar, who was trained by Hall of Fame member Bill Mott and ridden by Hall of Fame member Jerry Bailey, put together a 16-race winning streak from late 1994 to late summer of 1996, tying Citation's modern day record. A two-time Horse of the Year, Cigar won 19 of 33 starts and earned $9,999,815.

Madeleine Paulson brought several members of Team Cigar to the podium. Ted Carr, farm manager of Paulson's Brookside Farm in Kentucky was introduced, along with Mott, Bailey, and Tammy Siters, who works in the Hall of Champions barn at the Kentucky Horse Park, where Cigar resides today.

"I fell in love with racing when I first started riding," Bailey said. "But I never really loved a horse until I met Cigar."

"Cigar was a wonderful horse," Mott said. "He and his name are synonymous with the man and the family that owned him. Mr. Paulson and Cigar were both tough, durable, dependable, and very genuine to the very end."

Madeleine offered fitting tribute to both the horse and her husband. "Without Allen, Cigar would not have achieved what he did. He had the belief--and that made it special. "I'm sure Allen is looking down on us today, and all I can say is that not even Castro had a cigar as good as this one."

There was another parallel to the great Citation in this year's induction class. Noor, the horse of yesteryear, defeated Citation in four consecutive races in 1950. He was owned by Charles S. Howard; also the owner of Seabiscuit, whose trainer, Tom Smith, was inducted last year. In a repeat performance from a year ago when Smith earned entry, Howard's great grandson, Mike Howard was on hand and was introduced by Mike Kane, vice president of the National Turf Writers Association. This time, Howard accepted Noor's plaque. He noted that because of the popularity of Seabiscuit, a lot of other of Charles Howard's horses have been ignored over the years, citing Noor was an example. He said Noor was a "magnificent, magical creature" and his entrance was "long-earned and well overdue."

Also as part of the presentation, a letter from Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, was read. Noor set world records for 1 1/8 miles and 11/4 miles, and won 12 of 31 starts, earning $394,863.

Jockey Jack Westrope's entrance into the Hall of Fame was also well overdue. Westrope, died tragically after falling from Well Away during the running of the 1958 Hollywood Oaks. Tom Gilcoyne the National Museum of Racing's historian, introduced Westrope, and presented his plaque to Westrope's daughter, Pamela Donner, and Westrope's widow, Terry Chafee.

"I've never seen a horse carried over the finish line by a jockey," Gilcoyne said dryly. "But Jack must have been doing something close, because he seemed to lift them over the line. He was a jockey's jockey."

"If he were here, he'd be thrilled to be joining his best friends Johnny Longden, Eddie Arcaro, and Willie Shoemaker," Donner said.

Superlatives come easy to Lukas, himself a Hall of Fame member. He picked out Serena's Song from the 1993 Keeneland July sale, paying $150,000 for her for new owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis, and turned her in to "the tom girl next door." A winner of 18 of 38 starts in a three-year career, Serena's Song retired as North America racing's all-time leading money-earning female with $3,283,388 in earnings--a standard which held until May of this year when another Lukas trainee, Spain, topped her mark.

"She won a lot of races and a lot of money," Lukas said of Serena's Song, "and ultimately she won our hearts. She had the elegance of a Grace Kelly, she had the moves of Ginger Rogers, and she had the charisma of Marylyn Monroe. For you people that are a lot younger, you don't have a clue what I'm talking about. She had the moves of Janet Jackson and the charisma of Brittany Spears.

"But it's what we can't see that counts, but it's ultimately what we can't see that makes them great. It's the inside of the heart, and she had plenty of that. She was tough. She took on the boys and did it with grace...and made them like it."

Lukas presented Serena's Song's plaque to the Lewises, who celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary the day before the Hall of Fame induction.

Delp was introduced by long-time owner Harry Meyerhoff, who was co-owner of Hall member Spectacular Bid. "I got a call back in the spring that Bud Delp had been indicted," Meyerhoff joked. "I thought he'd call for bail money. But I found out he'd been inducted...into the Hall of Fame."

Meyerhoff, who is in the real estate business in Maryland, said it was Delp's "patience, patience, patience" that landed him in the Hall. According to Meyerhoff, he had bought 240 horses with Delp, and all but seven of them eventually started, with 20 stakes winners and three millionaires--"but Bid was the most thrilling."

Delp spanned the history of a training career that is still thriving since he took out his license in 1962. He thanked owners like Charles H. "Flash" Gordon, Mr. and Mrs. James Bayard and Harry, Tom, and Robert Meyerhoff. He also thanked Joe Thomas, general manager of Winfields Farm; veterinarians Alex Harthill and Pete Hill; and a host of racing secretaries that were "a claiming trainer's best friend." He also thanked his family and Herman Hall, a groom of 21 years.