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Curlin, Asmussen among new candidates for Hall of Fame
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.
Steve Asmussen is no doubt a great horse trainer! However, does anyone really believe his bloated statistics? Divisions across the country placed with unheralded assistants. This is plane and simple bogus. I'd like to nominate him to the corporate franchise Hall of Fame.
Curlin was a train
Craig Perret is long overdue, it is a mockery that he is not already in. But the big question is why is the most gifted jockey to come along in the last 50 years Ramon Dominguez not on the ballot?
I hope Chris Antley makes this year- ho SO deserves it. And the "drug overdose" is really a crock. Look at the autopsy notes and you'll see why. The police and medical examiner out there were in too much of a hurry to put that case to bed. He was murdered.
Wins: The Fountain of Youth, The Florida Derby, The Kentucky Derby, The Belmont Stakes, The Swaps Stakes, The Travers, The Kentucky Cup Classic, In the HOF? Nope. Thunder Gulch (what did he need to do?)
only curlin and asmussen deserve to be in there. the rest havent done enough.
Where is the king, King Leatherbury.
Curlin, Kona Gold, Xtra Heat and either Chris Antley or Gary Jones ...
Curlin was my favorite horse of all time. His Preakness win was the most thrilling of them all. I had to edit the description of the race on his Wikipedia to give it justice. After his dissapointing Belmont (BS pace in that one) and Haskell, I didn't bet him in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I couldn't believe he was able to run down the best older horse in the country -Lawyer Ron. That race was very exciting also. Great to see he was the star I always thought he was. In the BC Classic, Curlin, the greatest horse in the world mind you, was allowed to go off at 4-1. Street Sense was made the favorite. What a joke that was. I mean, didn't Curlin handle him in the Preakness? I got back $5400 on my $1000 win bet.
SNOW CHIEF was a lock in the Preakness! The track was rock-hard and The Chief with his great speed cruised around Pimlico to pay really good! Thanks Solis!!!