Texas Pays Tribute to New Members of Hall

Approximately 300 people were on hand at Retama Park Monday to pay tribute to the 2000 class of inductees into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Those feted at the gala included trainer Max Hirsch, jockey Jerry Bailey -- who was forced to miss the ceremony because of travel difficulties -- and King Ranch homebreds Middleground and Stymie.

The Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame was founded in 1999 to "honor individuals and horses that have enriched the history and long tradition of racing in Texas," according to its mission statement." Though no permanent structure has been erected as yet to house the hall, Retama chief executive officer Bryan Brown said plans are in the works to construct a facility in the paddock area of the track.

Live and silent auctions were conducted in conjunction with the induction ceremony. Brown said the auctions raised in excess of $36,000 to help fund construction of the hall. Jim Helzer, owner of JEH Stallion Station near Pilot Point, Texas, purchased the most expensive item of the evening when he paid $4,000 for an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2001 Kentucky Derby.

Bailey, a Texas native, is the second jockey to be inducted into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame, following Bill Shoemaker in 1999. Hirsch, a one-time private trainer for King Ranch, joins "the Master of King Ranch," Robert Kleberg Jr., in the hall. Middleground gets in on the 50th anniversary of his victories in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and Stymie was inducted in large part for his rags-to-riches success that saw him elevate from $1,500 claiming company -- in which he was taken by Max Hirsch -- to become one of the best handicap horses of his time.

The other 2000 inductees were longtime Quarter Horse breeder and owner Walter Merrick, and famed Quarter Horses Go Man Go.

"We were overwhelmed with the support provided to us by everyone in attendance," Brown said. "We all had a wonderful time listening to the many great stories associated with these historic individuals and horses. It was a fantastic evening."

As part of the hall inductions, jockey Angel Cordero Jr. was to have received a lifetime achievement award from the hall's board of directors, but he, too, was unable to attend. Cordero and Bailey were scheduled to fly from New York City to San Antonio Monday, but that flight was canceled after engine difficulties and they weren't able to catch another plane in time for the function.