Light 'Em Up: Cigar Heads 2002 Hall of Fame Class

Light 'Em Up: Cigar Heads 2002 Hall of Fame Class
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Bill Mott, who trained Cigar, latest Hall of Fame inductee.
In their first year of eligibility, Cigar and Serena's Song have been elected to the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame. Cigar won 16 consecutive races over a three-year span, tying Citation's modern mark for North American horses and retired as North America's all-time leading money earner. Serena's Song also set an earnings mark as the leading money-earning female in North America. Both marks still stand.

Those two champions are joined by a pair of human inductees: trainer Grover "Bud" Delp, and jockey Jack Westrope; as well as champion Noor, who is honored as the Horse of Yesteryear. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on the morning of Aug. 5 at the Fasig-Tipton Sale Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Hall of Fame policy initiates eligibility in those categories when five years have passed following a horse's final race. Cigar and Serena's Song both retired after the 1996 season.

Bred and raced by the late Allen Paulson, Cigar was Horse of the Year in both 1995 and 1996. From 1994 into the 1996 season, he compiled his 16-race win streak. Cigar's winning streak included a Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) in New York and the inaugural Dubai World Cup. His trainer, Bill Mott, and regular rider Jerry Bailey both are Hall of Fame members.

A Maryland-bred son of Palace Music-Solar Slew, by Seattle Slew, Cigar's overall record was 19 wins from 33 starts. He earned a North American record $9,999,815.

On hand for the announcement were Madeleine Paulson, widow of Allen Paulson, and Mott.

"It was Billy's decision to put him on dirt. It was my decision to make him a winner," Madeleine said jokingly. "Billy always comes through.

"For Allen, it was very exciting," she said when asked about the streak. "He was never afraid. I generally had a cardiologist with me. When he won, it was a relief, but you had to face the reality that there was another race. The journey was more exciting for Allen. If he were here, he'd be brimming."

"The one race that meant the most to me was when he won the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park," Mott said. "It was the culmination of the undefeated year--he was 10-for-10 for the year--it was very meaningful. It will always stand out."

Cigar entered stud in 1997, but failed to get mares in foal and currently is stabled at the Kentucky Horse Park outside Lexington.

"God gave us the greatest racehorse of all-time," Madeleine said. "And he said, 'you can have this horse--I will give him to you, but you may never recreate him.'"

Serena's Song, a daughter of Rahy-Imagining, by Northfields, was bred in Kentucky by Dr. Howard Baker and sold as a weanling for $42,000 to Arthur Appleton at Keeneland. Beverly and Robert Lewis then bought her for $150,000 at the 1993 Keeneland July sale. Trained for the Lewis stable by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Serena's Song proved tough against any sex. She twice beat the boys as a 3-year-old, first in the Jim Beam Stakes (gr. II) and then the Haskell Invitational (gr. I). She was named champion 3-year-old filly in 1995. In all she won 18 of 38 starts and earned $3,283,388.

Lukas was on hand for the announcement. "She was very correct," he said. "She had extremely good conformation. She was just one of those horses that every trainer should be blessed with in their career. Every once in awhile one will come down the path that are just absolutely tight and cold every morning. We never had any maintenance on her at any time. You know, I tested that pretty severely. I took her over there a lot of times.

"Ironically, it's interesting that two of the really, really superstars of the last couple of decades, Cigar and Serena's Song, both in their own sex groups, get into the Hall of Fame at the same time. Serena's Song didn't have the domination of Cigar, but Serena was one of the best. She's on top of the mountain as far as the leading earning fillies of all-time, which I think is an honor."

Delp has campaigned 68 stakes-winning runners but none compares to Spectacular Bid, whom Delp called "the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle." He trained Spectacular Bid to three consecutive championships from 1978-1980. "The Bid" won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I) in 1979 and had a perfect nine-for-nine campaign in 1980. He was named Horse of the Year in 1980.

"Just to be considered for nomination is an honor--and to be elected is overwhelming," Delp was quoted in a press release. "My family and I are so happy and look forward to the induction in August, where I will be joining the other Hall of Famers."

Jockey Jack Westrope burst onto the scene as America's leading apprentice at the age of 15 in 1933. He rode 301 winners, 25%, that year. Westrope rode for 26 years, then was fatally injured when thrown into the rail by Well Away in the 1958 Hollywood Oaks. At that time he ranked eighth behind Longden among 20th century riders in number of wins, having won 2,467 (14%) races from 17,497 starts. His mounts earned $8,226,677. Westrope's many major triumphs included a defeat of Seabiscuit while aboard 3-year-old champion Stagehand in the 1938 Santa Anita Handicap.

"I don't know if jockeys are like him anymore," said Pamela Westrope Donner, Westrope's daughter, in a release. "Daddy was really strong. I think he had the strongest hands of any of the jockeys then."

Noor, the 1945 son of Nasrullah-Queen of Baghdad, by Bahram, was elected over Morvich and Swoon's Son in the Horse of Yesteryear category for horses that last raced 25 years or more ago. As champion handicap horse of 1950, Noor authored a memorable string of four consecutive victories over Citation.

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