03/30/2011 11:51AM

Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez among 2011 Hall of Fame nominees

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Barbara D. Livingston
Jockeys Calvin Borel (above), Garrett Gomez, and John Velazquez are among the 2011 nominees.

Jockey Calvin Borel has won the Kentucky Derby three of the last four years. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer scored his third win in the Kentucky Oaks last year and also won a Breeders’ Cup race. Those recent successes, combined with their previous years of excellence, propelled both men onto the final ballot for this year’s National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, the Hall announced on Wednesday.

There are a total of 10 finalists, including two other newcomers, both jockeys – Garrett Gomez and John Velazquez. They join jockey Alex Solis, trainers Gary Jones and Robert Wheeler, and the female horses Open Mind, Safely Kept, and Sky Beauty on the final ballot.
Of those 10 finalists, only the four receiving the most votes from the Hall’s approximately 180 voters will be enshrined. Winners will be announced on May 13, with the induction ceremonies scheduled for Aug. 12 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where the Hall of Fame is located.

There are no male horses on this year’s ballot, even though, for instance, 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper was eligible.
The finalists were selected by the 16-member nominating committee, which was restricted to no more than 10 finalists from the 80 horses, trainers, and jockeys submitted for consideration.

Of the 10 finalists, Hollendorfer seems the strongest choice to get in. He was left off the ballot last year, but that oversight was righted this year, reflecting his decades of superior achievement. Hollendorfer has ranked in the top 10 for wins among trainers for 24 straight years, and has finished in the top 10 for purse earnings 12 times, including the last three years. He is fourth all-time on the victory list among trainers with more than 5,800 wins.

Last year, Hollendorfer won the Kentucky Oaks with Blind Luck, who went on to be named champion 3-year-old filly, and he won his first Breeders’ Cup race when Dakota Phone captured the Dirt Mile. Now a mainstay in Southern California, Hollendorfer won every training title at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate from 1986 through 2008.

The popular Borel has won more than 4,800 races, but is best known for his mastery at Churchill Downs, where he has won the Derby with Street Sense, Mine That Bird, and, last year, Super Saver. Only he and Pat Day, who already is in the Hall of Fame, have won more than 1,000 races at Churchill Downs. Borel was also the regular rider of Rachel Alexandra, the Horse of the Year in 2009.

Like Borel, the other three jockeys on this year’s ballot are still active. No retired jockeys were finalists.

Gomez and Velazquez are both two-time Eclipse Award winners. Gomez has won 12 Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2010 Classic with Blame. He has won more than 3,400 races. Velazquez, who has won more than 4,500 races, has eight Breeders’ Cup victories, and also captured the Belmont Stakes in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches.

Solis, currently riding in Florida, had his greatest success in Southern California, where he won just about every major race on that circuit, including the Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Handicap, and Pacific Classic. He owns three Breeders’ Cup victories among more than 4,800 lifetime wins.

Hollendorfer is the only trainer on the ballot still active. Jones, who retired in 1996, won 1,465 races and won 15 training titles in Southern California. Like Solis, Jones’s résumé includes just about every top race in the West, including the Santa Anita Handicap, Pacific Classic, Strub, and Hollywood Gold Cup.

Wheeler, who died in 1992, was one of the true greats of his era, yet has been passed over numerous times as a finalist. Long before large stables were the norm, he won 1,336 races, and trained such greats as Bug Brush and Silver Spoon. Late in his career, Wheeler trained the Eclipse Award-winning mare Track Robbery.

There is a backlog of worthy female horses for the Hall of Fame – a top candidate such as Ashado didn’t make the final cut this year – and the three who made the ballot all have been nominated before.

Open Mind was a champion at ages 2 and 3, and her 12 victories included the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Kentucky Oaks, Alabama Stakes, and the New York filly triple crown – the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks.

The brilliant sprinter Safely Kept won 24 of 31 starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and was an Eclipse Award winner.

Sky Beauty won 15 of 21 starts and, like Open Mind, won the New York filly triple crown, as well as the Alabama Stakes.