08/06/2010 4:36PM

Class of 1955 first to enter Hall of Fame

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The first professional racetrack in America – with a grandstand and admission gates – opened on Long Island, N.Y, in 1665, more than two centuries before the first professional baseball team – the Cincinnati Red Stockings – took the field in 1869.
But the first inductees to racing’s Hall of Fame came in 1955, nearly two decades after baseball named five initial inductees into its new Hall of Fame in 1936.

The National Museum of Racing celebrates its 60th anniversary this month in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. But it wasn’t until it moved from the former Canfield Casino to its permanent home down the street five years later that it established a Hall of Fame and named its initial inductees.

In early 1955, president Walter Jeffords Sr. announced that when the museum opened at its new home, it would contain a Hall of Fame, but the directors had resolved that inductees would be limited to horses, jockeys, and trainers – those most physically connected to the sport.
To this day, there are many who believe the Hall should be opened to owners, breeders, officials, and the like.

With this year’s induction ceremony set for Friday, test your knowledge of the initial 1955 inductees.

1. Near the close of the Saratoga racing season in August 1955, nine horses (all foaled in the 1800s), 12 jockeys, and six trainers were inducted into the Hall of Fame in a quiet, private ceremony – far different from those of recent years open to the public and attracting standing-room-only crowds of more than 1,000 people at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion.

The oldest inductee that year – and still to this date – was this champion runner and celebrated stallion foaled in 1805. Name him.

2. Steve Cauthen, born in Kentucky in 1960, rode in the United States less than three years (1976-79), completing his final 13 years as a jockey in England. He was a champion in both countries and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.

This American champion jockey, born in Connecticut in 1881, also rode most of his career (13 years) in England, where he was also a champion. He was among the initial dozen riders enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1955. Name him.

3. By the 1930’s, Webster’s and other major American dictionaries were adding this two-word phrase to their editions because its usage was becoming so common – especially by sports writers and radio broadcasters. It describes a finish (in any sport or contest) where the winner comes from far behind in the closing moments to snatch victory from defeat.

The phrase was made famous by this 19th century jockey, who was an initial inductee into the Hall of Fame. Name him.

4. Legend has it that in the late 1870s this 19-year-old country boy was working in a post office in Weldon, N.C., when a noted trainer walked in and noticed race horse drawings on the wall. The two got into a conversation and the trainer convinced the teenager to come to work for him as a stablehand at the racetrack. The young lad soon became a famous trainer in his own right. Both these men were among the six trainers inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955. Name the two.

5. Jockey Earl Sande and trainer Sam Hildreth were among the 1955 inductees. During the 1920’s, Hildreth conditioned horses for the powerful Rancocas Stable of Harry F. Sinclair, including future Hall of Famers Grey Lag and Zev.

Under contract to ride for Hildreth during this period were Sande and a fellow Idaho native. The two commanded some of the highest salaries of that decade. Name this other half of the Hildreth riding team, who was also a 1955 Hall of Fame inductee.

Answers  below


1. Sir Archy (originally named Robert Burns and sometimes spelled Sir Archie) was the champion of 1809 – winning 4 of his 5 races. But the bay colt gained his lasting fame as the first great foundation stallion bred in America.

A son of imported Epsom Derby winner Diomed, Sir Archy sired more than 50 outstanding sons and daughters prior to his death at age 28.
Boston, a son of Timoleon (by Sir Archy), won 40 of 45 races during eight seasons from 1836-1843. Thirty of these wins came in four-mile heats.

As a stallion, Boston grew feeble and blind in his final years. From his last crop came the immortal Lexington, who would go on to sire more champions in America than any horse before or since.

Lexington won only 6 of 7 starts (four-mile heats) before retiring because he was going blind like his sire. For 16 seasons between 1861 and 1878, Lexington was the nation’s leading sire.

Sir Archy, Boston, and Lexington were among the nine initial equine inductees to the Hall of Fame in 1955.

2. Danny Maher began riding in the United States when he was 14. Three years later, in 1898, he led the nation with 167 winners.

Falsely accused on purposefully losing on the favorite in the Suburban Handicap of 1899, won by the mare Imp (Maher was later cleared of any wrongdoing), the jockey packed his bags and left for England, where he rode from 1900 to 1913.

Maher won with his first two mounts at the Manchester meeting and became an instant sensation with the British fans and press. He went on to win each of the English classics, including the Epsom Derby three times, during his career.

His final figures in England showed 1,421 winners from 5,624 mounts – 25 percent.

Tod Sloan, another of the initial 1955 inductees, also completed his riding career in England.

3. For the first half of the 20th century, there was likely not a sports writer alive who did not use the words “a garrison finish” when writing about a come-from-behind victory in any sport. For a time, it was considered an overused cliché. Today, it is rarely seen or heard.

From 1882 to 1897, Edward R. “Snapper” Garrison dominated American racing, winning an estimated 700 races with mounts that earned more than $2 million – huge figures in that era.

A member of a stable of young boys developed into riders by the brutal “Father Bill” Daly, Garrison’s style of riding – bringing his mounts from far back to win – was a crowd favorite.

Garrison, and three of his fiercest competitors – James  McLaughlin, Isaac Murphy, and Fred Taral – were among the initial Hall of Fame inductees.

4. Years after leaving a Weldon, N.C., post office, Andrew Jackson Joyner signed on to train for the legendary James Ben Ali Haggin. Later, he trained for such celebrated owners as Harry Payne Whitney and George D. Widener.

The trainer who convinced Joyner to leave his post office job was William P. Burch, a former Confederate soldier who watched his homeland destroyed in the Civil War and then picked himself up to become one of the nation’s greatest trainers.

Burch and Joyner joined the Hall of Fame in 1955. Burch’s son, Preston M. Burch, and grandson, J. Elliott Burch, were later inducted into the Hall of Fame.

5. Like his fellow rider Earl Sande, Laverne Fator grew up in Idaho in the early 20th century, riding horses at outlaw tracks and county fairs.
In his first year as a licensed rider in 1919, Fator finished third in the national standings. He was the nation’s leading jockey in money won in 1925 and 1926. In 1926, he won with 28 percent of his 143 mounts.

In 1936, delirious with septic appendicitis, Fator plunged to his death from a window at Jamaica Hospital. Whether it was suicide or not will never be known.