08/03/2006 11:00PM

Decades later, Boland's day has come

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens may have paid Bill Boland the ultimate compliment when he described Boland's riding style.

"When he was coming down the stretch, he and Eddie Arcaro would be getting low and pushing hard," Jerkens said. "You couldn't tell which was which."

Boland, who rode Jerkens's first stakes winner, War Command in the 1955 Display Handicap, said he tried to pattern himself after Arcaro, regarded by many as the greatest rider of all time.

"He was a picture on a horse," Boland said of Arcaro.

Monday, 48 years after Arcaro entered the Hall of Fame, Boland's plaque will join Arcaro's, as he becomes the 86th jockey to be inducted. Boland will be inducted along with Carl Hanford, the trainer of five-time Horse of the Year Kelso, and Cougar II, the male turf champion of 1972. The induction ceremony will take place Monday at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion, across the street from Saratoga Race Course. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

Boland, 73, as well as Hanford and Cougar II, was inducted by the Historical Review Committee, which meets every other year. Boland said he is humbled by the honor.

"It's great," Boland said. "It's the ultimate. It's the highest honor you can get in your profession. A lot of people don't get it."

Boland retired from riding in 1969 at age 37. He won 2,049 races from 17,233 mounts, and his horses earned $14,856,095. He trained horses for nearly 19 years before becoming a racing official for the New York Racing Association in 1988. He served as an alternate steward for most of that time.

After lying about his age to obtain a jockey's license at age 15, Boland became the youngest rider to win the Kentucky Derby when at 16 he rode Middleground to victory in 1950.

Boland also rode Middleground to victory in the Belmont Stakes, in what he called "probably the easiest race I ever won." Middleground finished second in the Preakness, but with a legitimate excuse.

"He finished second in the Preakness and he got in trouble," Boland said. "A horse bolted going into the first turn, took him to the outside fence. By the time I got back going again, a horse named Hill Prince opened up eight [lengths] and I got beat four. It might have made a difference."

Boland said he has a more vivid memory of the 1959 Derby, when his mount, Sword Dancer, was beaten a nose by Tomy Lee. The two bumped several times in the stretch. Boland lodged a claim of foul that the Churchill stewards disallowed.

"It took me six months to get over that son of a gun, getting beat a nose," Boland said. "How can you get beat a nose in the Derby?"

Boland, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, gave Charlie Whittingham his first stakes winner, guiding Porterhouse to victory in 1953. Porterhouse was the champion 2-year-old that year. Boland rode several champions at least once. Among them were Dr. Fager, High Gun, and Kelso, who in his final career start was ridden by Boland.

Boland beat Kelso three times aboard the Jerkens-trained Beau Purple, including victories in the 1962 Suburban and Man o' War and the 1963 Widener Handicap.

"Beau Purple, you let him get the first half-mile, he'd beat anybody, long short, whatever," Boland said.

Boland said he quit riding in 1969 because he had become sour.

"I could've ridden another 10 years," Boland said. "I wanted to train. I wanted to try it. Stupid. Worst thing I did in my life."

The two best horses Boland trained were Wise Philip, a four-time stakes winner, and Native Fern, who won the 1969 Demoiselle.

Off the track, Boland and his family have endured more than their share of tragedy. In 1988, his grandson, Seaton, died as a result of injuries suffered when he was hit by a car while crossing the street. Nine months later, Boland's daughter, son-in-law, and another granddaughter were killed in a house fire. One granddaughter, Jennifer, survived and was raised by Boland and his wife, Sandra. Jennifer, now 28, is trying to make it for Monday's ceremony.

"It's a part of life," Boland said of his family misfortunes. "It's not easy. I have a strong wife. Thank God for her."