03/07/2014 11:07AM

Curlin, Asmussen among new candidates for Hall of Fame

Barbara D. Livingston
This victory in the 2008 Woodward was one of 11 wins in 16 starts for Curlin, who earned more than $10 million.

Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year, and his trainer, Steve Asmussen, the second-winningest trainer in racing history, are among the four horses, four jockeys, and two trainers who make up the 10 finalists for this year’s Hall of Fame, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame announced on Friday.

Both Curlin and Asmussen are on the ballot for the first time. The only other debut was made by Kona Gold, an Eclipse Award-winning sprinter.
The other seven finalists – the horses Ashado and Xtra Heat; jockeys Chris Antley, Garrett Gomez, Craig Perret, and Alex Solis; and trainer Gary Jones – have been on the ballot before but failed to be voted in.

The 10 finalists were chosen by a 16-member nominating committee. The four of those 10 who receive the most votes from the 183-member voting panel will be this year’s induction class. Voters can select any combination of horses, jockeys, and trainers.
The four inductees will be announced on April 25. The induction ceremonies are scheduled for Aug. 8 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where the Hall of Fame is located.

Curlin retired in 2008, so this was the first year he was eligible to be on the ballot. Unraced at age 2, Curlin more than made up for his belated start by winning 11 of 16 starts, including the Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He is the leading money-winning horse in North American history, with earnings of $10,501,800. He was owned by a partnership headed by the Stonestreet Stables of Jess Jackson, now deceased, and Barbara Banke.

Asmussen, 48, won consecutive Horse of the Year titles with Curlin in 2007-08, and followed that up with a third straight with the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009, the year they combined to win the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward. In addition to Curlin’s Classic, Asmussen has won three other Breeders’ Cup races. Asmussen won the Kentucky Oaks in 2005 with Summerly. His other major stakes wins include the Cigar Mile, Test, Vosburgh, and two runnings of the Arkansas Derby. Asmussen, who has stables in multiple states, set a single-season record for wins among trainers with 650 in 2009. He won the Eclipse Award as champion trainer in both 2008 and 2009. Still very active on multiple fronts, Asmussen entered Friday’s racing with 6,707 career victories.

Kona Gold, a gelding, had a long, productive career, which included five consecutive appearances in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, a race he won in 2000, when he was named champion sprinter. He won 14 of 30 starts, including consecutive runnings of Del Mar’s Bing Crosby. He was owned by a partnership that included his trainer, Bruce Headley. Kona Gold was retired to the Kentucky Horse Park, where he died in 2009.
Ashado was a champion at ages 3 and 4, and won 12 of 21 starts, including seven Grade 1 races, most notably the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She was also among the leaders of her generation at age 2. She was owned by the Starlight Stables of Jack and Laurie Wolf, and trained by Todd Pletcher.

Xtra Heat, like Kona Gold a brilliant sprinter, won 26 of 35 starts and finished out of the money just twice during a career highlighted in 2001 by being named champion 3-year-old filly, a rare honor for a sprinter. She won 10 graded stakes, including the Prioress, Genuine Risk, and two runnings of the Barbara Fritchie. She was trained by her longtime co-owner, John Salzman.

Antley, one of the most naturally gifted riders ever, was a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, and came close to sweeping the 1999 Triple Crown with one of those Derby winners, Charismatic, who also won the Preakness before being injured in the stretch run of the Belmont. Antley rode primarily in New York and New Jersey, but also had success in California. His other major wins included the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Santa Anita Handicap, Blue Grass, and Mother Goose. He died in 2000, at age 34, from what police ruled was a drug overdose.

Gomez, like Antley a gifted but troubled rider, is a two-time Eclipse Award winner and has won 13 Breeders’ Cup races, most notably the 2010 Classic on Blame, who was the only horse to defeat the great mare Zenyatta. Gomez is a four-time winner of the Pacific Classic, and has won most major races in Southern California, including the Santa Anita Derby, as well as many other nationally prominent races, such as the Travers, Whitney, Haskell, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Gomez, 42, is currently inactive, but has not announced whether he plans to retire or return to riding.

Perret, 63, retired in 2005 as one of the most-accomplished jockeys of his era, with his 4,415 victories including the Kentucky Derby in 1990 aboard Unbridled. He also won that year’s Eclipse Award as champion jockey, and won more money than any apprentice rider in 1967, before the Eclipse Awards were inaugurated. He also won the 1987 Belmont on Bet Twice, and won four Breeders’ Cup races.

Solis, 49, has won 4,980 races and is still active in Florida, but had most of his success on the West Coast, where he won major races like the Santa Anita Derby, Pacific Classic, and Santa Anita Handicap. He is best known nationally for winning the 1986 Preakness aboard champion Snow Chief, but has also won major Eastern races like the Met Mile and Jockey Club Gold Cup. He has won three Breeders’ Cup races, including the Sprint aboard Kona Gold, and won both the BC Classic and Dubai World Cup with Pleasantly Perfect.

Jones, 69, retired in 1996 after a brilliant career that saw him win 1,465 races, most notably two runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap. Based in Southern California, Jones won multiple training titles at all three major tracks of his era – Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita – and won most of the circuit’s major races, including the Pacific Classic, Hollywood Gold Cup, Malibu, and two runnings of the Hollywood Futurity. He won many top races throughout the country, including the Apple Blossom, Beverly D., NYRA Mile, Mother Goose, Widener, two runnings of the Oaklawn Handicap, and the 1986 Marlboro Cup with Turkoman, that year’s champion older horse.