03/01/2013 12:37PM

Fair Grounds Hall of Fame to induct late jockey E.J. Perrodin

Lou Hodges Jr.
The late jockey E.J. Perrodin will be inducted into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame on Monday.

NEW ORLEANS – The Fair Grounds always held a special place in the heart of jockey E.J. Perrodin, his widow, Lisa Perrodin, was saying last week from her home in Haughton, La.

On Monday, the track’s Hall of Fame will welcome E.J. Perrodin, who in June died of cancer at age 55. Lisa said she and 9-year-old son Devin wouldn’t miss the induction for anything.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” she said. “I would have loved for him to be there for that, but what God put in my heart the last couple of days, he let me feel like, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to open up a window in heaven, and he’s going to see it all.’

“It’s the best way I can look at it, to see through it. It truly is an honor. I don’t think people understand what this racetrack was to him.”

Ray Salmen, who raced several popular Fair Grounds horses as a longtime owner and served nine years on the track’s board of directors, and Star Guitar, who is in his first year at stud after becoming the all-time leading Louisiana-bred money winner, are the other inductees.

The ceremony will take place at a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Black Gold Room. Tickets cost $25, and proceeds will help pay for English classes for backstretch workers.

E.J. Perrodin, a Rayne, La., native who first rode in races as a boy on the southern Louisiana bush tracks, won 3,083 races at recognized racetracks in a career that began in 1975 and ended during the last Fair Grounds meet. He’s among eight jockeys to win six races on a Fair Grounds card.

He won 56 stakes at Fair Grounds, including the New Orleans Handicap on Listcapade in 1983, the Fair Grounds Oaks on Quite a Gem in 1988 and Silky Feather in 1993, and the Explosive Bid Handicap (now called the Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap) on Candid Glen in 2003. Candid Glen, an 84-1 shot in that $650,000 turf race, gave Perrodin his most lucrative victory.

He was known for his prowess on turf. Lisa Perrodin said she heard people refer to him as “the sod god.”

“Perrodin was one of the great ones, had the best sense of pace of any of them,” said veteran Louisiana trainer James Hodges. “I didn’t see him get the best horse beat too many times.”

Salmen owned horses from the 1940s until his death in 1977 at age 59. His best horse was A Letter to Harry, purchased privately as an unraced 2-year-old in 1976. “He had seen the horse work at Keeneland,” said Sandra Salmen, Ray Salmen’s daughter.

A Letter to Harry, who won 22 races, including 12 at Fair Grounds, in 46 starts from 1977 to 1981, scored his most significant wins after Ray Salmen’s death. The horse, trained by John Oxley, won the Michigan Mile and One-Eighth in 1978 and the New Orleans Handicap in 1979. Pago Hop and Iron Gray were other stakes winners owned by Salmen.

Sandra Salmen, who is in charge of horsemen’s relations at Fair Grounds, said her father’s induction “means everything to me.”

“I know how much racing meant to him, how much love he had not only for the sport, but for the people in the sport,” she said.

Star Guitar, who won 24 of 30 starts from 2007 through last year, earned $1,749,862. He won a record five Louisiana Champions Day races, including the Classic for older horses, three times.

“He was just super consistent at a high level,” said Al Stall Jr., who trained him.

Star Guitar, who is standing at Clear Creek Stud in Folsom, La., for a $3,500 fee, has been bred to more than 80 mares, said Val Murrell, the farm’s general manager.

“People seem to be pretty excited about having the opportunity to breed to him,” Murrell said. “He’s kind of a loved horse.”