10/26/2006 11:00PM

Hall of Fame reverts to old policy

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The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has amended its voting rules yet again, returning to a previous policy of inducting one member per category, with no requirement that inductees receive votes from 75 percent of the voters.

That 75-percent threshold was not reached by any of the nominated finalists this past year in the four contemporary categories - male horse, female horse, jockey, and trainer - and was attained just once, by trainer Nick Zito in 2005. As a result, this year's ceremony featured only steeplechase candidates who had been chosen by a committee that met every four years.

So, the executive committee of the Hall of Fame's board of trustees tweaked its rules to return to a policy that had been in place for two decades, through 2004. In 2005, the 75-percent threshold was added, and there were five finalists per category. This year, there were three finalists per category. Next year, whoever gets the most votes among each group of finalists will be inducted, regardless of percentage.

"We have made the nominating process stringent enough that returning to the plurality system does not lower standards," The museum's president, Stella Thayer, said in a statement. "The new process is designed to ensure that only bona fide Hall of Fame-quality individuals are nominated, so whichever one receives the highest number of votes has passed a very difficult series of tests."

The Hall of Fame Committee, chaired by Ed Bowen, said a nominating committee will choose from between two to four finalists per category, unless the nominating committee believes there are no appropriate candidates that year. The only way a category could yield more than one winner is if there is a tie once the finalists are voted on by the approximately 185 Hall of Fame voters. But if someone gets 100 percent of the vote, and another 99, only the one with 100 percent would go in.

The trustees also voted for the Historic Review Committee - which had met every other year to consider horses and people inactive for at least 25 years- and the Steeplechase Committee meet more frequently. The new schedule calls for the Historic Review Committee to meet in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012, and the Steeplechase Committee in 2009 and 2013.