Updated on 05/15/2011 10:48AM

Hall of Fame adds Hollendorfer, three mares

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is among four new members of racing's Hall of Fame.

It took not one, not two, but three wins in the Kentucky Oaks, along with more than two decades of sustained excellence, for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer to finally get into the Hall of Fame, an honor that was bestowed upon him on Friday, when he was announced as part of the induction class for 2011 for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

So, considering all the success Hollendorfer has had with female racehorses, it seemed appropriate that the three other inductees in this year’s class will be mares, all great ones. Open Mind, Safely Kept, and Sky Beauty, all of whom missed out in prior tries to get into the Hall of Fame, finally got over the hump, and will join Hollendorfer as inductees this year. The ceremony will be held Aug. 12 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion, two blocks from Saratoga racetrack.

There are expected to be additional inductees at that ceremony. The Hall of Fame’s historic review committee met this year to consider trainers, jockeys, and horses whose careers ended more than 25 years ago. Selections from that committee will be announced next month, according to Hall of Fame spokesman Brien Bouyea.

The unprecedented inclusion of three mares in one class was made possible by a sensible adjustment the Hall of Fame made two years ago. Rather than take one winner from four categories – jockey, trainer, male horse, and female horse, as though choosing from a Chinese takeout menu – the Hall of Fame allowed the top four vote getters, regardless of category, to get in. This was largely done to try and alleviate the backlog of worthy female racehorses who have competed in North America in recent decades, and this year, the desired, and deserved, result was achieved.

Of the 10 finalists on this year’s ballot, Hollendorfer, Open Mind, Safely Kept, and Sky Beauty received the most votes from the 183 persons, all in North America, who were sent ballots. The Hall of Fame does not release vote totals. The other six finalists were jockeys Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez, Alex Solis, and John Velazquez, and trainers Gary Jones and Bob Wheeler. There were no male horses among the 10 finalists this year.

“This is something you could never expect in life,” Hollendorfer said on a conference call. “I’m quite humbled, and very grateful.”
Hollendorfer credited his wife, Janet, with being “the glue that held the stable together all these years.”

The Hollendorfers have no children, and are tireless workers.

“I never met him until last summer,” said Allen Jerkens, who trained Sky Beauty. “I never had the vitality he had. He certainly has the work ethic.”

That work ethic has paid off to the tune of Hollendorfer being the fourth-winningest trainer of all time, with more than 5,900 victories. He had his early success in Northern California, where he won training titles at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields for a staggering 22 straight years, but in recent years he has branched out to Southern California, where his biggest win came in the Santa Anita Handicap.

Last year, Hollendorfer, 64, trained Blind Luck to the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. She won the Kentucky Oaks, a race Hollendorfer had won previously with Lite Light and Pike Place Dancer. Hollendorfer also won his first Breeders’ Cup race last year, when Dakota Phone captured the Dirt Mile.

“I hope to continue to do the things I’ve been doing all these years,” Hollendorfer said, “and live up to being in the Hall of Fame.”
Open Mind and Sky Beauty both won the Acorn Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes, and Coaching Club American Oaks – the New York Filly Triple Tiara – then added the Alabama Stakes for good measure.

Open Mind, owned by Gene Klein and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, won 12 times in 19 starts, and won Eclipse Awards at age 2 – when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – and 3. Beginning with the 1988 Breeders’ Cup, she won 10 straight races, seven of which were Grade 1, including the Kentucky Oaks.

Jerkens trained Sky Beauty to 15 wins –nine of which were Grade 1 – in 21 starts. She won races ranging from five furlongs to 1 1/4 miles while racing from 1992 to 1995.

“I never thought she really wanted to go a mile and a quarter, but she did it twice,” Jerkens said.

Sky Beauty was owned by Georgia Hofmann.

“I thought she should have got in before, but I can’t knock the fillies that got in before,” Jerkens said.

Safely Kept was one of the great sprinting mares of all time. She won 24 of 31 starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, in a career that spanned four race seasons.

“We were hoping she’d get the honor she deserved,” said Richard Santulli, who owned Safely Kept with Barry Weisbord.

At age 3, Safely Kept finished second in the 1989 BC Sprint to Dancing Spree at Gulfstream Park. That was her only loss in nine races that year, and she was rewarded with the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.

Safely Kept came back at age 4 and won the BC Sprint at Belmont Park when Dayjur jumped a shadow nearing the finish. Alan Goldberg trained Safely Kept.

“It’s tough for sprinters to break through,” Weisbord said of the Hall of Fame. “We felt that maybe her day wouldn’t come. We’re very honored and very thrilled.”