National Museum of Racing announces 2016 Hall of Fame finalists
Four jockeys, four Thoroughbreds and two trainers comprise the 10 finalists on the National Museum of Racing’s 2016 Hall of Fame ballot, as selected by the Museum’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The finalists are: jockeys Ramon Dominguez, Victor Espinoza, Garrett Gomez and Craig Perret; Thoroughbreds English Channel, Kona Gold, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta; and trainers Steve Asmussen and David Whiteley.
Dominguez, English Channel, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are first-time finalists. Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. A maximum of four candidates with the highest vote totals — provided they receive majority approval (50.1 percent) of the voting panel — will be elected to the Hall of Fame. If less than than four candidates receive “yes” votes from a majority of voters, there will be fewer than four inductees in 2016. The results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced on Monday, April 25. The induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Friday, Aug. 12 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s 16-member Nominating Committee from a total of 82 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must have been licensed for 25 years, while jockeys must have been licensed for 20 years. Thoroughbreds are required to be retired for five calendar years before becoming eligible. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. The 20- and 25-year requirements for jockeys and trainers, respectively, may be waived, at the discretion of the Museum’s Executive Committee. Dominguez, who rode from 1996 through 2013 before suffering a career-ending injury, had the 20-year requirement waived by the Executive Committee. Candidates not active within the past 25 years are eligible through the Historic Review process.
Dominguez, 39, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, won 4,985 races (23 percent) and $191,620,277 in his career and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He led all North American riders in earnings each of those years, setting a record of $25,639,432 in 2012. Dominguez led all jockeys in wins in 2001 and 2003 and was second in wins on seven other occasions. He won a total of 20 individual meet riding titles on the New York Racing Association circuit, including a record 68 wins at Saratoga in 2012.
The overall leading rider in New York in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Dominguez won a total of 44 Grade 1 races in his career, including 25 from 2010 through 2012. He won three Breeders’ Cup races: the 2004 Turf (Better Talk Now), 2011 Juvenile (Hansen) and 2012 Turf (Little Mike). Dominguez was the regular rider of 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and his other top mounts included champions Gio Ponti and Hansen, as well as Alpha, Stay Thirsty, Fabulous Strike, Eight Belles, Better Talk Now, Haynesfield and Bluegrass Cat. Dominguez won multiple editions of the Man o’ War, Manhattan Handicap, Beldame, Remsen and Arlington Million, as well as single runnings of the Travers, Sword Dancer, Wood Memorial, Hollywood Derby, Suburban Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Apple Blossom and Woodward, among others.
Prior to settling in New York, Dominguez was the leading rider at Delaware Park from 2004 through 2007 and won multiple meet titles at Laurel Park and Pimlico in Maryland. He won a total of 160 graded stakes and currently ranks 17th all time in earnings and 32nd in wins.
Espinoza, 43, a native of Tulancingo, Mexico, has won 3,266 races (15 percent) with earnings of $186,231,530 through March 8. An Eclipse Award finalist in 2015 when he rode Horse of the Year American Pharoah to the first Triple Crown in 37 years, Espinoza has a total of seven victories in the Triple Crown series, including five in the past two years. He has three wins in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and one in the Belmont. Espinoza has ranked in the top 10 nationally in earnings seven times since 2000, including a peak position of No. 3 in both 2004 and 2006. He won 38 graded stakes from 2014 through 2015, including 19 Grade 1s. With American Pharoah and 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome, Espinoza has won a total of 15 graded stakes to date.
In 2015, Espinoza won Grade 1 races with Finnegans Wake, Hard Aces, Stellar Wind and Hard Not to Like in addition to the six Grade 1s he scored with American Pharoah, which included the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Haskell Invitational and Arkansas Derby in addition to the Triple Crown. In 2014, Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Santa Anita Derby, Hollywood Derby and San Felipe with California Chrome. His other Grade 1 wins in 2014 included the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Starlet with champion Take Charge Brandi and the FrontRunner and Del Mar Futurity with juvenile champion American Pharoah.
In 2002, Espinoza won the first two legs of the Triple Crown with champion War Emblem. Other major wins for Espinoza include the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (at odds of 55-1 with Spain in 2000) and multiple runnings of the Santa Anita Derby, Hollywood Derby, Eddie Read, Del Mar Oaks, Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien Handicap, Del Mar Debutante, Del Mar Futurity, Haskell Invitational and Norfolk, among others. He has also won single editions of the Santa Anita Handicap, Vosburgh, Champagne, Wood Memorial and Hollywood Gold Cup. At Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, Espinoza has won two riding titles at each track. He won a Del Mar record seven races Sept. 4, 2006. Espinoza ranks 19th all time in earnings and has won 229 graded stakes to date.
Gomez, 44, a native of Tucson, Ariz., rode from 1988 through 2013 and won 3,769 races (17 percent) and $205,224,899. The Eclipse Award winner in 2007 and 2008, Gomez led all North American riders in earnings in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2007, he set a single-year record with 76 stakes wins. He won 13 Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2010 Classic with Blame, handing Zenyatta her lone career defeat. He won the Bill Shoemaker Award for the top jockey at the Breeders’ Cup four times.
Gomez began his career at Santa Fe Downs in New Mexico in 1988 and rode on the California Fair Circuit before moving to the Midwest in 1989. He was the second-leading apprentice rider in the nation with 182 wins that year. Gomez’s career began to shine in the mid-1990s when he won back-to-back runnings of the Arkansas Derby in 1994 and 1995. Two years later, he won the American Derby, Arlington Classic and his first Grade 1, the Secretariat Stakes, all aboard Honor Glide.
Gomez relocated to the West Coast in 1998 and won the fall meet riding title that year at Hollywood Park. The next year, Gomez won four Grade 1 events on the West Coast and in 2000 won the first of back-to-back runnings of the Pacific Classic with Skimming. Gomez won the Pacific Classic a record-tying four times. Other major wins for Gomez include multiple editions of the Del Mar Oaks, Del Mar Futurity, Spinster, Cigar Mile, Hollywood Turf Cup, Santa Anita Oaks, Vanity and Woodbine Mile, as well as single runnings of the Travers, Santa Anita Derby, Whitney, Stephen Foster, Sword Dancer, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Haskell Invitational, Kentucky Oaks, Manhattan Handicap, Hollywood Derby, Dubai Golden Shaheen and Canadian International, among others. Gomez won three riding titles at Hollywood Park and one at Santa Anita. He ranks 13th all time in earnings and won a total of 318 graded stakes.
Perret, 66, won 4,415 races and had purse earnings of $113,837,299 in a career that spanned from 1967 through 2005. He was North America’s leading apprentice jockey in earnings in 1967 and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1990. In 1987, Perret rode Bet Twice to a 14-length victory in the Belmont Stakes, denying the Triple Crown hopes of Alysheba. During his Eclipse Award year of 1990, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled and Grade 1s with Housebuster, Safely Kept, Rhythm and With Approval. He won a total of 57 stakes races that year and earned a career-best $11,724,403.
In 1993, Perret won the first and third legs of the Canadian Triple Crown — the Queen’s Plate and Breeders’ Stakes — aboard that year’s Sovereign Award winner for Horse for the Year, Peteski. Perret also piloted Peteski to a victory in the Molson Export Million that year. Perret won the middle jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes, in 1994 with Bruce’s Mill in stakes-record time. He also won the Queen’s Plate in 1992 with Alydeed and the Breeders’ Stakes in 1995 with Charlie’s Dewan for a total of five victories in the Canadian Classics.
Along with four Breeders’ Cup victories, Perret also won multiple runnings of the Haskell Invitational, Travers, Vosburgh, Pimlico Special, Withers and Carter Handicap, as well as single editions of the Florida Derby, Coaching Club American Oaks, Wood Memorial, Hopeful and Clark Handicap, among others. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1988. Perret ranks 40th all time in earnings and 49th in wins.
English Channel (Smart Strike—Belva, by Theatrical (IRE)) posted a career record of 13-4-1 from 23 starts and earned $5,319,028. Bred in Kentucky by Keene Ridge Farm, English Channel was a $50,000 purchase by James Scatuorchio at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sales. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden in all but one of his 23 career starts by John Velazquez, English Channel won the 2007 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Turf Horse.
A winner of seven graded stakes, including six Grade 1 events, English Channel won his lone start as a 2-year-old in the summer of 2004 at Saratoga. At 3, he posted a record of 4-2-0 from eight starts and earned $1,143,491. His wins that year included the Woodlawn Stakes at Pimlico, the Virginia Derby (Grade 3) and Colonial Turf Cup Stakes at Colonial Downs and an allowance score at Keeneland. He also finished second in the Secretariat Stakes and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (losing by a head) that year.
As a 4-year-old in 2006, English Channel registered Grade 1 wins in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, United Nations Stakes at Monmouth and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (winning by 4½ lengths) at Belmont. He also won the Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (behind Red Rocks and Better Talk Now) at Churchill. English Channel posted a seasonal mark of 4-0-1 from seven starts and earnings of $1,507,937.
At 5 in 2007, English Channel repeated in both the United Nations Stakes (setting a course record of 2:12.89 for 1⅜ miles on the turf) and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. He concluded his career with a seven-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Monmouth, defeating a field that included Red Rocks, Better Talk Now, Dylan Thomas and Grand Couturier. He also set a Gulfstream course record that year for 1⅛ miles on the turf of 1:44.51 in an allowance victory. With a record of 4-2-0 from seven starts and earnings of $2,640,000, English Channel earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Grass Horse.
Kona Gold (Java Gold—Double Sunrise, by Slew o’ Gold) was bred in Kentucky by Carlos Perez at Twilite Farm and sold for $35,000 at Keeneland to a partnership that included trainer Bruce Headley, Irwin and Andrew Molasky and Michael Singh’s High Tech Stable. The Eclipse Award winner for Champion Sprinter and runner-up for Horse of the Year as a 6-year-old in 2000, Kona Gold posted a career record of 14-7-2 from 30 starts with earnings of $2,293,384.
During his championship year in 2000, Kona Gold won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Ancient Title, Bing Crosby, Potrero Grande and Palos Verdes handicaps. In winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Kona Gold broke the Churchill Downs and Breeders’ Cup record for six furlongs with a time of 1:07.77. A five-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint participant, Kona Gold won the Bing Crosby and Potrero Grande again in 2001. He also had multiple victories in the El Conejo Handicap, including a Santa Anita track record in 1999. Kona Gold’s other major wins included the San Carlos Handicap and Los Angeles Handicap. Overall, he won 10 graded stakes, including two Grade 1s.
Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d’Oro—Lotta Kim, by Roar) was named Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2009 and posted a career record of 13-5-0 from 19 starts and earned $3,506,730. Bred in Kentucky by owner Dolphus Morrison, Rachel Alexandra was trained by Hal Wiggins until a private sale to Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick following her 20¼-length victory in the 2009 Kentucky Oaks. From there, she was trained by Steve Asmussen. After being ridden by Brian Hernandez early in her career, Rachel Alexandra was piloted by Calvin Borel for her final 14 career starts.
As a 2-year-old in 2008, Rachel Alexandra broke her maiden in her second career start at Churchill Downs, added an allowance win at Keeneland and returned to Churchill to conclude her season with a win in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes (setting a stakes record) in her first pairing with Borel. She posted a record of 3-2-0 from six starts and earnings of $201,440 as a juvenile.
As a 3-year-old in 2009, Rachel Alexandra delivered a perfect record in eight starts. She won at seven different tracks that year, starting with a victory in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park. She then won the Fair Grounds Oaks and Fantasy Stakes prior to her 20¼-length win in the Kentucky Oaks. Asmussen and her new ownership then entered her in the Preakness. She became the first filly to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown since 1924 when she defeated Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. Rachel Alexandra then romped by 19¼ lengths in the Mother Goose, defeated Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird in the Haskell Invitational by six lengths and topped older males in a dramatic Woodward victory. Her sophomore ledger was 8-0-0 from eight starts and earnings of $2,746,914.
Rachel Alexandra returned as a 4-year-old in 2010 and finished second in her first two starts, the New Orleans Ladies Stakes and the La Troienne. She then won the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap and the Lady’s Secret Stakes before finishing second in the Personal Ensign, her final career start. She finished the season with a record of 2-3-0 from five starts and earnings of $558,376.
Zenyatta (Street Cry—Vertigineux, by Kris S.), who posted a career mark of 19-1-0 from 20 starts and earnings of $7,304,580, was named Horse of the Year in 2010 and won a total of four Eclipse Awards in her career. Bred in Kentucky by Maverick Production, Ltd., Zenyatta was a $60,000 purchase by Jerry and Ann Moss at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sales. Trained by John Shirreffs, Zenyatta was named Champion Older Mare in 2008, 2009 and 2010 along with her Horse of the Year honor.
Zenyatta arrived at the races late in 2007 as a 3-year-old, winning both of her starts at Hollywood Park. From that point on, she competed exclusively in graded stakes events, winning 17 consecutive such races to run her win streak to 19 to start her career. At 4, Zenyatta won the El Encino Stakes, Apple Blossom Handicap, Milady Handicap, Vanity Handicap, Clement L. Hirsch Handicap, Lady’s Secret Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. She finished the season with a record of 7-0-0 from seven starts and earnings of $2,090,580, winning the first of three consecutive Eclipse Awards as Champion Older Mare.
In 2009, at age 5, Zenyatta repeated in the Milady, Hirsch and Lady’s Secret and defeated the likes of Gio Ponti, Summer Bird, Twice Over and Colonel John to become the first filly or mare to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and earn her second straight Eclipse for Champion Older Mare with a record of 5-0-0 from five starts and earnings of $3,330,000.
As a 6-year-old in 2010, Zenyatta won the Santa Margarita Invitational, her second Apple Blossom, and third Vanity, Hirsch and Lady’s Secret. She owned a 19-race win streak before suffering her lone career loss to Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, her final career start. With a record of 5-1-0 from six starts and earnings of $1,830,000, she was named Horse of the Year and earned her third consecutive Champion Older Mare award. Overall, Zenyatta won a total of 17 graded stakes, including 13 Grade 1s.
Asmussen, 50, a native of Gettysburg, S.D., ranks second all time in career wins (7,246 through March 8) and fourth in earnings ($237,473,515) in a training career that began in 1986 after a brief time as a jockey. The Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Trainer in 2008 and 2009, Asmussen has led all North American trainers in wins nine times and earnings three times. He has ranked in the top 10 in both wins and earnings every year since 2000. In 2004, Asmussen won 555 races to surpass the single-year record of 496 that had been held by Jack Van Berg since 1976. Asmussen broke his own record in 2008 with 621 wins and topped it once again with 650 wins in 2009.
Asmussen trained Curlin to Horse of the Year honors in 2007 and 2008 and Rachel Alexandra to the Horse of the Year title in 2009. With Curlin, Asmussen won the Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Woodward, Stephen Foster, Arkansas Derby, Rebel and two editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He won a third Jockey Club Gold Cup with Haynesfield. Asmussen’s key wins with Rachel Alexandra included the Preakness, Woodward, Haskell Invitational and Mother Goose. Asmussen has also trained the champions Kodiak Kowboy, My Miss Aurelia and Untapable.
Asmussen has five Breeders’ Cup victories: the 2007 Classic (Curlin), 2011 Turf Sprint (Regally Ready), 2011 Juvenile Fillies (My Miss Aurelia), 2012 Dirt Mile (Tapizar) and 2014 Distaff (Untapable). Other major wins include multiple editions of the Kentucky Oaks, Saratoga Special, Mother Goose, Woody Stephens, Woodward, Dwyer, Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Cotillion, Frizette and Schuylerville, as well as single runnings of the Spinaway, Futurity, Cigar Mile, Vosburgh, Ballerina, Test, Apple Blossom and Pimlico Special, among others.
Asmussen earned his record 17th leading trainer title at Churchill Downs in the 2015 fall meeting. He has won 13 training titles at Fair Grounds, 11 at Remington Park, 11 at Lone Star Park and six at Oaklawn Park. He was the first trainer to surpass 1,000 wins at Lone Star. Asmussen has won a total of 185 graded stakes.
Whiteley, 71, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Frank Whiteley, Jr., trained the champions Revidere, Waya and Just a Game (IRE) and won 678 races in a career that spanned from 1970 through 1995. He won 33 percent of his starts (678-for-2,068) and had purse earnings of $11,837,823. Whiteley won 45 graded stakes races and 62 overall stakes. He won the 1979 Belmont Stakes with Coastal, thwarting the Triple Crown hopes of Spectacular Bid.
With Revidere (1976 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly), Whiteley won the Coaching Club American Oaks, Ruffian Handicap, Monmouth Oaks, Cotillion Handicap and Gazelle Handicap. Whiteley won the Flower Bowl, Diana Handicap, Man o’ War, Aqueduct Turf Classic, Santa Ana Handicap, Edgemere Handicap, Top Flight Handicap, Saratoga Cup and Beldame with Waya (1979 Champion Older Female). With Just a Game (1980 Champion Female Turf Horse), Whiteley won the Diana, Flower Bowl, Matchmaker, Orchid Handicap, New York Handicap, Suwannee River Handicap and La Prevoyante Handicap. Other notables trained by Whiteley included Highland Blade, Tiller, French Colonial, Instrument Landing and Bailjumper.