Hall of Fame: Humble Beginnings (Cont.)

Continued from part 1

What it takes to make the Hall

Thoroughbred racing's Hall of Fame is part mystery, part mystique. It's no secret which people and horses have been honored with induction, but what is required to gain entrance is still somewhat unclear.

The Hall itself has had three homes. It was initiated the same year the National Museum of Racing moved into its current location on Union Avenue in 1955. At first, the Hall of Fame was upstairs, an area now reserved for offices. Later it moved downstairs, then into its current home at the back of the museum.

After the Aug. 6 induction ceremony, there will be 318 horses and humans in racing's Hall of Fame. Each is represented by a plaque in one of 10 alcoves. An accompanying multi-media presentation shows photos, racing records, and accomplishments.

According to Hall of Fame curator Kate Cravens, everything, from the way plaques are displayed to the election process, is always changing. The initial group of Hall of Famers was limited to horses that raced prior to 1900 and jockeys and trainers no longer active in the sport. Various committees compiled lists, then the museum's executive committee made final selections. In 1973, it was proposed and accepted that only retired or deceased individuals be eligible. In 1976, that was amended to pertain to only horses. Trainers and jockeys must have been licensed for 20 years or retired.

Initially inclusion of owners was discussed, but abandoned because it could conflict with awards which already existed at the time. Proposals to include track announcers or media members were rebuffed to prevent the door from opening too wide.

One unchanged element in the voting procedure is media participation. At one point, Turf writers were polled, then the results were handed to the nominating committee, who submitted its recommendations to the board of directors, who made the final selections.

Today a 13-member nominating committee handles the preliminary steps, and final ballots are mailed to 146 members of the media. The members are: Steve Crist (Daily Racing Form), Russ Harris (New York Daily News), Joe Hirsch (Daily Racing Form), Jay Hovdey (Daily Racing Form), Neil Milbert (Chicago Sun), William Nack (Sports Illustrated), Ray Paulick (The Blood-Horse), Jay Privman (Daily Racing Form), Jennie Rees (Louisville Courier-Journal), John Sparkman (Thoroughbred Times), Clark Spencer (Miami Herald), Michael Veitch (Saratogian), John T. von Stade (ex-offico, National Museum of Racing).

The process still isn't perfect.

"Every year we get criticism," said Cravens.



1. Thoroughbreds should not be eligible until five calendar years have elapsed between their final racing year and their year of nomination;

2. Jockeys shall have ridden for 15 years to be eligible (an interruption in their careers for injury is included in that time);

3. Trainers shall have been active as licensed trainers for 25 years (not counting years as assistant trainers) to be eligible;

4. "Oldtimers" among Thoroughbreds are defined as those horses which last raced at least 25 years before their year of nomination.

5. The 15- and 25-year requirements may be waived for retired jockeys and trainers, but a five-year waiting period is then observed before becoming eligible. In cases of fragile health, the Hall of Fame committee may request the five-year waiting period be waived at the discretion of the executive committee.

Nominating and Balloting Procedure

Each member of the voting panel is asked for possible selections in each category. The provisional nominations can take the form of the exploratory suggestions. The executive commitee narrows the candidates to five in each category, then again to three after further screening. The three candidates go on the ballot, and are announced to the public. Then, the voting panel select their choices.

Voting Procedure

Brief biographies on each nominee will be distributed to the voting panel (now 146 media representatives). They will be asked to weigh their vote, assigning their first choice a "1" and so on. In each category, the individual with the highest number of "1" votes will be the sole winner; in the event of a tie, the number of "2" votes will be the deciding factor.