03/12/2002 12:00AM

Cigar leads Hall nominees


Cigar, who won 16 straight races, the first Dubai World Cup, and twice was named Horse of the Year, is one of nine horses and six people who are finalists this year for the Racing Hall of Fame.

is one of three finalists for contemporary male horse. The others are Ancient Title and Precisionist, both of whom swept Santa Anita's three-race Strub Series as 4-year-olds.

The three finalists for contemporary female horse are Dance Smartly, Flawlessly, and . The finalists for horse of yesteryear - a sort of oldtimers category - are Morvich, Noor, and Swoon's Son.

The finalists for jockey are Kent Desormeaux, Eddie Maple, and the late Jack Westrope. The finalists for trainer are Bud Delp, the late Sonny Hine, and Mel Stute.

The winners will be announced on April 30, the Tuesday of Kentucky Derby Week; induction ceremonies are Aug. 5 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where the Hall is located.

More than 140 racing journalists and historians vote on the Hall of Fame. A 14-member committee is given the task of narrowing a large list of people and horses in each category down to five, and then those five are winnowed again to three finalists. Voters elect one in each category.

Among those eligible but not on the ballot this year are the contemporary males Best Pal, Manila, Pleasant Colony, and Thunder Gulch, females Estrapade, Landaluce, My Juliet, Safely Kept, and Sky Beauty, and oldtimers Numbered Account and Yo Tambien.

Cigar is on the ballot for the first time, since horses have to be retired for more than five years before becoming eligible. Initially trained by Alex Hassinger Jr., and then by Bill Mott, Cigar was considered the best horse of the 1990's. He won 19 of 33 starts and $9,999,815. In 1995, he won all 10 of his starts, including the Breeders' Cup Classic, and earned the first of his two consecutive Horse of the Year titles. Found infertile at stud, Cigar is now retired at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Ancient Title and Precisionist are likely to be steamrolled in the voting by the popular Cigar. Ancient Title won 24 of 57 starts, and won major races on both coasts, including the Hollywood Gold Cup and Whitney Handicap. He could win sprinting and routing, as could Precisionist, who won 20 of 46 starts, won 1 1/4-mile races such as the Strub Stakes, and also won the six-furlong Breeders' Cup Sprint in 1985. Precisionist was a finalist last year, but lost to Holy Bull.

Flawlessly was a finalist last year for contemporary female, but lost to Paseana. A two-time Eclipse Award winner, Flawlessly performed the unprecedented feat of winning the Ramona Handicap and Matriarch Stakes - both Grade 1 races - three straight years. She won 16 of 28 starts. Dance Smartly, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1991, won 12 of 17 starts, including the Canadian Triple Crown against males. Serena's Song also had great success against males, winning the Jim Beam Stakes and Haskell Invitational. She won 18 of 38 starts and $3,283,388.

Desormeaux is on the ballot for the first time, as jockeys are eligible after riding for 15 years. Desormeaux has won more than 4,100 races, three Eclipse Awards, two Kentucky Derbies, and two Breeders' Cup races. Maple, now retired, won 4,398 races, and is best known for riding 1982 Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo. Westrope won 2,467 races before being killed in a riding accident at Hollywood Park in 1958. Westrope was the eighth winningest rider of all time in North America at the time of his death. A finalist last year, he lost to Earlie Fires. Last year's other finalist, Craig Perret, did not make the cut this time.

Hine is best known for training Skip Away, the 1998 Horse of the Year. He also trained the champion sprinter Guilty Conscience. Delp is best known for training Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year Spectacular Bid. Stute trained the champion colt Snow Chief, and won Breeders' Cup races with Brave Raj and Very Subtle. Hine and Stute were finalists last year, but lost to Richard Mandella. Trainers who failed to make the final cut this year include Dale Baird, the winningest trainer of all time; Carl Hanford, Gary Jones, Buster Millerick, Bob Wheeler, and Nick Zito.

Morvich won the 1922 Kentucky Derby, and won 11 races at age 2. Noor, the champion older horse of 1950, is best known for beating the great Citation in four straight races. Swoon's Son, a finalist last year, won 22 stakes while racing primarily in the Midwest in the 1950's.