Each year the pre-induction chatter is usually given over to second guessing, a scenario best played out in a local tavern.
This year was no different as first-ballot jockeys Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez and Johnny Velazquez were thought to be odds-on to break their legacy maiden at first asking. But all must await until 2012, at least.
But it’s not as if those enshrined don‘t belong. There are degrees of greatness, of course, but when you study this year’s resumes, it’s difficult not to be impressed no matter how demanding your criteria.
Friday will be an unforgettable experience for the connections and descendents of some of these late, great performers and it’s difficult for anyone not to be impressed. Consider the 1875 foal Duke of Magenta.
Better, the colt made the transition from 2 to 3, winning 11 of 12 starts, including the Preakness, Withers, Belmont, Travers, Kenner and Jerome.
Significantly, only Man o’ War and Native Dancer won the Preakness, Withers, Belmont and Travers as 3-year-olds and they‘re already enshrined. The Duke’s career slate reads (19) 15-3-1.
Open Mind, owned by Gene Klein and trained by Wayne Lukas, was the juvenile champion of 1988 and came back to win eight of 11 at 3, including New York’s Filly Triple Crown, the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama. Guess if you’re going to win any five states at 3, the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club Oaks, in addition to the others, would be the way to go.
The Alabama turned out to be her 10th straight victory, seven of which were Grade 1, on her way to the sophomore filly championship. The upset is that she didn’t get in sooner.
Safely Kept, a foal of 1986, was not only brilliant but game, racing 31 times--unusual in the modern era, to say the least--finding the winners’ circle 24 times.
As a 3-year-old Safely Kept won 8 of 9 starts, including the Eclipse Award for top sprinter, then returned to win eight of 10 at 4, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but lost her title bid that year to a bullet named Housebuster.
Sky Beauty never won a race outside of New York, but voters this year decided she didn’t have to.
A 15-time winner of 21 lifetime starts, she won the NYRA Filly Triple and Alabama at 3. At 4, she won the Go for Wand, Hempstead and Ruffian; three of her nine Grade 1 victories, often under weighty imposts.
Jockey Shelby “Pike” Barnes is an interesting story. In 1888, at age 17, he won 206 races, the first rider to win over 200 races in a year. The runnerup had less than half at 95.
By comparison that year, Hall of Famers Jimmy McLaughlin, “Snapper” Garrison, and the legendary Isaac Murphy rode 72, 71 and 37 winners, respectively.
Barnes also won the Futurity at old Sheepshead Bay worth $40,900 to the winner, at the time the richest sporting event in America. He finished the year riding winners at a 32.9 percent clip.
Barnes repeated in 1889 with 170 winners and won many major stakes the year after that. In 1891, he won the Brooklyn Derby then began to fade from the national spotlight. He died in 1908 in Columbus, Ohio. He was 37.
After cutting his teeth as an exercise rider and a jockey who had trouble making weight, Matthew Byrnes gained ultimately gained acclaim as a trainer.
Byrnes’ first claim to fame was helping to guide the career of Hall of Famer Parole who, at age 8, won 12 of 24 starts before adding 15 more over the next two years at ages 9 and 10.
But Byrnes made his bones as the trainer of Salvator, who retired after 19 career starts with a 16-1-1 slate, setting track records from a mile to a mille and a quarter. He would later train the famous Scottish Chieftain and Tammany, but saved his best work with a tomboy of a mare named Firenze.
Firenze started 82 times, winning an astounding 47 races, often against males, including Hall of Fame Kingston, the sport’s most prolific winner. In her career, Firenze finished off the board only five times.
Jerry Hollendorfer requires no introduction but his accomplishments are always worth reviewing: He ranked in the Top 10 in wins for 24 straight years; he’s fourth in all-time victories; eighth in all-time earnings.
At Bay Area tracks, his home base, he won training titles for 22 straight years--YEARS--37 at Bay Meadows and 32 at Golden Gate.
But it wasn’t until last year that his skills were recognized on a national level with a filly named Blind Luck, her three cross-country trips resulting in a 3-year-old filly Eclipse championship.
Castellano Escapes Injury After Mount Suffers Pulmonary Failure
If they talk about it all, jockeys will remind you of one thing: This is the only sport in which an ambulance follows you while you do your job.
The quick attention Javier Castellano received after being thrown heavily from Doing Great in the 7th race, the $75,000 Lucy Scribner Purse at 5-½ furlongs on the turf, might have served him well but he was also a very fortunate.
As spills go, this was pretty ugly. With the field approaching the three-eighths pole, Doing Great, on the inside, was battling Cascadilla Falls for the lead when she bore out. At that point Castellano tried to right her, throwing crosses in an attempt to straighten and re-engage.
But that’s when the filly lost her action behind, suffering cardiovascular failure. She died on the racetrack without need of euthanasia.
When the filly collapsed, Castellano was jettisoned forward. That dramatic forward momentum caused him to tumble further forward, bouncing off the turf for a second time.
Taken off on a stretcher as a precaution, he refused to go to the hospital and was taken to First Aid. Castellano wanted to keep his engagement three races later but had to be cleared by a doctor before doing so. He remained on the sidelines, Rajiv Maragh picked up the mount, and Smart Enuf finished unplaced.
Fortunately, when Castellano was thrown clear of his mount, there were no trailing horses behind. It’s a good day when an ugly incident that could have been much worse wasn’t. When Scorper won the finale, it created an $82,000 carryover for Hall of Fame Friday.