Updated on 04/23/2012 4:37PM

Hall of Fame: Ghostzapper, Attfield, Velazquez, Wheeler are elected

Barbara D. Livingston
Ghostzapper secured his Horse of the Year title in 2004 by winning that year’s BC Classic at Lone Star.

Ghostzapper did not race often, but when he did, he made quite the impression. He won nine times in 11 starts, beat one of the strongest Breeders’ Cup Classic fields ever assembled, was named Horse of the Year and champion older male in 2004, and recorded the fastest Beyer Speed Figure since the numbers have been published.

He was clearly one of the most talented horses of modern times, and on Monday Ghostzapper was named by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as one of its inductees for the class of 2012, joining jockey John Velazquez, and trainers Roger Attfield and Bob Wheeler.

Those four individuals beat out six others who were on the ballot – the Eclipse Award-winning male sprinter Housebuster, champion fillies Ashado and Xtra Heat, and jockeys Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez, and Alex Solis.

The 183 Hall of Fame voters had to choose from that final list of 10, and could mix and match horses and people in any combination. Though voters could select as many individuals as they wished, only the four who received the most votes got in.

The four new members will be inducted in ceremonies on Aug. 10 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where the Hall of Fame is located.

Ghostzapper secured his Horse of the Year title by beating a BC Classic field at Lone Star Park that also included Azeri, Birdstone, Funny Cide, Perfect Drift, Pleasantly Perfect, and Roses in May. He remained in training in 2005, and though he made just one start, it was dazzling, as he romped to a 6 1/4-length victory in the Metropolitan Handicap off a seven-month layoff.

Students of time, though, are drawn to Ghostzapper’s brilliant performance in the 2004 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park, which he won by 10 3/4 lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 128.

In his often-interrupted career, Ghostzapper won stakes races ranging from seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, and finished his career with six straight victories over a span of 19 months. The late Bobby Frankel trained Ghostzapper, who was bred and was owned by Frank Stronach, who said the BC Classic was Ghostzapper’s best race.

“A classic distance. He was very impressive there,” Stronach said Monday on a national teleconference.

Ghostzapper was ridden nine times by jockey Javier Castellano, who only lost once on him, in the 2003 King’s Bishop at Saratoga.

“I remember Bobby Frankel telling me before the first time I got him, ‘You’ll never get on any horse like him – ever,’ ” Castellano said Monday. “It’s true. Now he’s in the Hall of Fame.[Frankel] was so sharp.”

Velazquez, 40, is a two-time Eclipse Award winner who achieved his greatest victory in last year’s Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom. He also won the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard the filly Rags to Riches. Velazquez has won more than 4,800 races, including 11 Breeders’ Cup races.

“It’s a great honor to be here. I’m proud to be here,” said Velazquez, who could still add significantly to his Hall of Fame career. “I’m still looking forward to many years. It’s exciting to get this honor and still be riding.”

Velazquez said his agent and mentor, retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., was even more excited than Velazquez.

“This feels much bigger to Angel than to me, but it’s a big deal for anyone,” Velazquez said. “Angel is ecstatic, and me as well.”

Like Velazquez, Attfield is still active. Attfield, 72, is an eight-time winner of Canada’s Sovereign Award as champion trainer, and has won that country’s most-prestigious race, the Queen’s Plate, eight times. Three of those Queen’s Plate winners went on to sweep the Canadian Triple Crown. Last fall, Attfield won his first Breeders’ Cup race when Perfect Shirl, with Velazquez aboard, captured the BC Filly and Mare Turf.

Attfield was previously inducted into the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame.

“You always hope, you always envision doing well, but this is a great honor for me,” Attfield said. “This means a great deal to me. I’m absolutely ecstatic to go in with so many people I’ve respected over the years.”

Wheeler, who died in 1992, was one of the all-time greats on the West Coast, and finally got into the Hall of Fame after falling short on several prior occasions. His champion racehorses included the females Silver Spoon and Track Robbery, and he also trained such well-known runners as Bug Brush and Tompion.

Particularly adept with 2-year-olds, Wheeler won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship five times and the Del Mar Debutante three times. At the time of his death, Wheeler was fifth on the list of all-time stakes-winning trainers at Santa Anita, where he won three runnings of the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap.

– additional reporting by David Grening

Fast facts: 2012 Racing Hall of Fame inductees

B. h. 2000, Awesome Again-Baby Zip, by Relaunch
Owner: Stronach Stable
Trainer: Bobby Frankel
Record: 11-9-0-1
Earnings: $3,446,120

• Elected Horse of the Year and older male champion in 2004, when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Woodward, and two other graded stakes in an undefeated four-start campaign
• Earned a 128 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Philip Iselin at Monmouth Park. It is still the highest published Beyer Figure ever recorded.
• Won the Grade 1 King’s Bishop, and the Grade 1 Vosburgh against older horses as a 3-year-old
• Finished his career with a 6 ½-length victory in the Metropolitan Mile, earning a 122 Beyer

Roger Attfield
Born: November 28, 1939, Newbury, England
Career record (through April 22, 2012): 9,484-1,732-1,396-1,287
Earnings: $88,896,062

• Won eight Sovereign Awards as outstanding trainer and is a member of the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame
• Trained three Canadian Triple Crown winners: Izvestia, Peteski, and With Approval
• Trained eight Queen’s Plate winners
• Won his first Breeders’ Cup race last year with Perfect Shirl, in the Filly and Mare Turf

John Velazquez
Born: Nov. 24, 1971, Carolina, Puerto Rico
Career record (through April 22, 2012): 26,641-4,805-3,890-3,492
Earnings: $264,056,104

• Won Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in 2004 and 2005, topping the earnings list in both years
• Won 11 Breeders’ Cup races, including two in 2011, with Perfect Shirl in the Filly and Mare Turf, and Stephanie’s Kitten in the Juvenile Filly Turf
• Won his first Kentucky Derby in 2011, with Animal Kingdom
• Won the Belmont Stakes in 2007 with Rags to Riches, the first filly to win the race in 102 years
• Ranks third, behind only Pat Day and Jerry Bailey, on the all-time earnings list

Robert Wheeler
Born: c. 1920
Died: April 12, 1992
Career: 1938-1992
Won 1,336 races lifetime

• Trained 1982 older female champion Track Robbery
• Trained Hall of Fame female Silver Spoon
• Other major stakes winners include Bug Brush and Tompion
• Won five runnings of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship

Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
So often Hall's of Fame are undermined by undeserved members. Roger Attfield, however, is and always has been the consumate horseman. Well done, Roger...a well deserved honour.
Jerry Ray More than 1 year ago
I can't belive thiat Val beat out Calvin.3 Kentucky Derby's in a row is quite the feat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of the many talented horses not in the HoF, there was only room to put one in this year? This is not a knock at Ghostzapper, far from it, he deserves his honor, but it would be nice if the HoF would stop randomly pulling ballot tricks out of thin air every single year. Pick a format and stick with it, and let's get more of the unheralded horses from the last 30 years in.
jimmy colabawala More than 1 year ago
John Val??? Really ? come on. Animal Kingdom should have won the second leg --Preakness, had John not timed him out of the race. Do you remember the dash that the horse showed, Its a shame he was nosed out due to bad handling by Val.
TravisStone More than 1 year ago
It's really hard to argue with how fast Ghostzapper was. His King's Bishop was the hint that he had some serious talent... and from there, he proved it.
Charles Decker More than 1 year ago
5 years ago at Saratoga, a fan sarcastically stated to John V "nice ride John" after he botched the race. This fan was on the apron and John V was on his way back to the unsaddling area. He promptly flipped the bird to the fan, in front of kids, old - timers, etc...It was not a nasty comment at all--the fan was just riding him a bit. A class act indeed.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
I can't stick up for him there, but he was the Scapegoat in the "Life at Ten" deal. That fat ex-basketball guy spit on that little girl and still pulls down big bucks on tv. There are some places you don't take kids. I wish that were different. Did you ever see how the 'fans' did John V's uncle?
jimi More than 1 year ago
No, what happened?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
O-K... I gotta be alittle careful here. You know that there is a very ugly racial slur right? Well, every time Angel beat this group of fans- latinos- or did not win for them here it came that slur over and over, and with spit. He got mad one time and said no on my horsey! So then they would only spit when he was going back to the room. When you are in that tunnel you're a pretty easy target. Man that guy could ride...
Mike Bilinskas More than 1 year ago
Can't believe John Velasquez is in the Hall of Fame after being the primary purpose at fault for the Life At Ten incident. I guess single handily putting a black eye on the sport of racing on it's biggest days gets you in the Hall of Fame, next year i guess Rick Dutrow will be enshrined
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
JV was a scapegoat in that deal. You gotta look it up in The Bloodhorse and learn. It sounds more like a dehydrated animal that John protected. He probably saved her life Mike.
Bill Plance More than 1 year ago
I agree totally with Mike Bilinskas.......Pletcher & Johnny V. knew it and did NOTHING about it..........class act.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Do you mean the rider, or the Steward?
st More than 1 year ago
Why isnt Bodemeister in the hall of fame? People on these DRF forums have pretty much said he is a lock to be the a triple crown winner and could beat even in one case someone said he could beat Secretariat, so why not put Bode in the hall of fame and on August 10th we can finally put Bodemeister alongside the greats
Jack Serafin More than 1 year ago
thats why they run the race.......
Chris Vignoe More than 1 year ago
All deserving for sure, but Ghostzapper is one of my all time favorites. A throw back in some ways, won races from 6 furlongs to a mile and quarter. Very tough to find horses that can do that.
John Smith More than 1 year ago
How did Velazquez get in before David Gall , Larry Snyder, and others? Last year t they elected a jockey who has been dead over a hundred years. They will do anything to avoid making a real decision.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Why is Billy Turner not in?