06/10/2002 11:00PM

Chief Bearhart elected to Hall

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Chief Bearhart, who gave Canadian racing and breeding one of its biggest boosts in recent years when he won the Breeders' Cup Turf at Hollywood Park in 1997, will be among four new Thoroughbred inductees to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

The other new inductees, announced Tuesday by the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, are: Frank Stronach, a prominent owner-breeder and head of the Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns a number of racetracks, including Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park; trainer Mac Benson, who is active here at Woodbine; and jockey Ted Atkinson.

The four will be honored at an Aug. 29 induction ceremony at the Congress Centre in Etobicoke after gaining at least 75 percent of the votes of the 16-member election committee, which had six nominees to consider.

Owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, Chief Bearhart was the Eclipse Award-winning turf horse in 1997 following a campaign in which he also won the Canadian International.

Bred in Ontario by Richard Maynard, Chief Bearhart was Canada's Horse of the Year in 1997 and 1998, the country's champion turf horse from 1996 through 1998. He also was voted champion older horse in 1997.

Stronach, 69, will be inducted into the "builders" category, which includes owners, breeders, and racetrack executives.

Although his racing, breeding, and racetrack interests are far-flung, Stronach maintains a strong Canadian presence through his nearby property, Adena Spring North, and has horses in training at Woodbine with Roger Attfield, Reade Baker, and Malcolm Pierce.

Stronach's racing resume includes three consecutive Eclipse Awards in the owner category beginning in 1998; an Eclipse in the breeder category in 2000; six Sovereign Awards as outstanding owner; and four Sovereign Awards as outstanding breeder.

Benson, 71, is in the midst of his 44th year as a trainer.

His career highlights include Queen's Plate victories with Regal Embrace in 1978 and La Lorgnette, a Canadian champion, in 1985.

Other Sovereign Award winners trained by Benson include Choral Group (1981), Bounding Away (1984), Legarto (1988), Deputy Jane West (1992 and 1993), and Santa Amelia (1998).

Atkinson was North America's leading jockey in both races and money won in 1944 and 1946, when he became the first rider whose mounts earned more than $1 million in a year.

Born in 1916 in Toronto, Atkinson rode in the U.S. from 1938 through 1959 and retired with 3,795 victories. He was inducted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. in 1957.

Four representatives of Standardbred horse racing also will be inducted this year.