05/01/2011 4:22PM

Long Hall


The Hall of Fame credentials of jockeys Calvin Borel, John Velazquez and Garrett Gomez could be burnished next Saturday if one of them comes through and wins the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby. Velazquez rides Uncle Mo, a cryptic star whose popularity seems to ebb and flow with the tides. Gomez landed the potentially lucrative Coolmore account with Master of Hounds. And Borel's on Twice the Appeal, a horse he's never ridden before who last appeared at Sunland Park. Anyone else smell Deja Bird?

Winning the classics appears to count for something when it comes to entering the Hall of Fame. Of the 21 jockeys elected by vote over the past 25 years, only three failed to win at least one Triple Crown event -- Earlie Fires, Russell Baze and Sandy Hawley. Only thing is, Velazquez, Gomez or Borel could win the Derby on Saturday, May 7, and it would not make a bit of difference this time around. The ballot box closes on Friday, May 6, which also means if anyone among the 183 voters has not yet sent in his or her votes, they sure as heck won't remember to do it on Kentucky Oaks day.

The folks who run the Hall of Fame insist on entangling their process with the Triple Crown. The 2011 inductees will be announced the following week, between the runnings of the Derby and the Preakness. In today's wired world, with multiple platforms craving ever-fresh content, this is a one hundred percent guarantee to get news about the Hall of Fame buried deeper than Jimmy Hoffa. The moment the Class of 2011 is announced, the names will be washed away by the wave of latest bulletins from Louisville and Baltimore. At that point on the calendar, the only name in horse racing belongs to the winner of the Derby.

Major League Baseball announces its new Hall of Famers in January, safe even from spring training. The NFL waits until the Super Bowl is in the books before its latest honorees are named. In terms of timing, horse racing compares only to the NBA, which likes to make its Hall of Fame announcement during the NCAA Men's Final Four, as happened in February in Houston. This has the effect of presenting the retired heroes of the sport in contrast to the young collegiate guns, as if to wonder aloud, "Who will be the next Dennis Rodman?"

Racing, however, does not have that many highpoints during its year-long season to celebrate. Entwining the Hall of Fame process with the Triple Crown is a waste of opportunity. There was a day when a representative of the Hall of Fame would hand out a printed (on real paper!) press release to the captive Kentucky Derby media announcing new inductees, but that day is deader than dial-up. Now, word gets round with a keytouch and has the lifespan of a gypsy moth. Might as well give good news a chance.

As for the voting itself, four from this list will make it: Borel, Velazquez, Gomez, Alex Solis, Jerry Hollendorfer, Robert Wheeler, Gary Jones, Open Mind, Safely Kept and Sky Beauty. Voters are encouraged to vote for as many of those as they like, which means many voters will play defense and vote only for the candidates they feel deserve immediate enshrinement. Anyway, that's what I did, so apologies to the rest, who all deserve a place in the Hall.