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Hall of Fame welcomes Hollendorfer and others at Saratoga ceremony
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It was Ladies’ Day at Saratoga on Friday morning, with Open Mind, Safely Kept, and Sky Beauty all inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
But the lady most on the mind of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, another inductee, was not his Kentucky Oaks winners Blind Luck, Lite Light, and Pike Place Dancer, nor Tuscan Evening, but his wife and assistant trainer, Janet, who has been instrumental in Hollendorfer’s success, but was unable to attend the ceremonies owing to the lingering effects of a brain tumor.
Hollendorfer, famously steely, got choked up and had to pause when he got to the portion of his acceptance speech where he wanted to thank his wife. And moments later, when he finished, Hollendorfer got a deserved rousing cheer from the full house that attended the ceremonies at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion, two blocks from the racetrack.
Hollendorfer’s speech was the emotional highlight of a ceremony that moved along fairly briskly, save for one windy speech, and included passionate remarks about a love of racing from celebrity chef Bobby Flay, the keynote speaker. The ceremonies were deftly emceed by Randy Moss, the popular television racing analyst.
In addition to Hollendorfer and the three contemporary female racehorses, other members of the Hall of Fame class of 2011 were the horse Duke of Magenta, trainer Matthew Byrnes, and jockey Shelby “Pike” Barnes, all of whom were voted in by the Hall’s historic review committee.
Hollendorfer is the fourth-winningest trainer of all time, with 5,990 wins as of Friday morning, and he has won the Kentucky Oaks three times; only Woody Stephens, Ben Jones, and Wayne Lukas - all Hall of Famers - have more wins in that race. He enjoys immense respect from his brethren. Hollendorfer got a shout-out from Lukas when Lukas was accepting the award for Open Mind.
“You have been a real role model, with your work ethic, and the way you conduct yourself,” Lukas said. “You’re a credit to the Hall of Fame trainers’ fraternity, and we welcome you.”
Open Mind was a two-time Eclipse Award winner at ages 2 and 3, and a terrific video retrospective of her career, which played before Lukas went to the podium, brought back memories for her trainer.
“You forget just how great she was,” Lukas said.
Here’s how great: Open Mind won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at age 2, and came back the next year to win the Kentucky Oaks, the Alabama, and the New York filly Triple Crown - the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks. At one point, she won 10 straight races, seven of which were Grade 1.
Lukas said Open Mind got her name because of an exchange with his son, Jeff, while scouting yearlings. Though she was not particularly robust, Lukas thought it best to “keep an open mind” about her. Open Mind was owned by Gene Klein.
Like Open Mind, Sky Beauty was a winner of the filly Triple Crown and the Alabama during a career that saw her win 15 of 21 starts for her Hall of Fame trainer, Allen Jerkens. Her award was accepted by Philip Richter, the grandson of Philip Hofmann, owner Georgia Hofmann’s late husband.
“Let’s hear it for the girls,” said Richter, who said the man known to him as “Big Phil” was far more proud of his success in racing than rising from a low-level job at Johnson and Johnson to become the chief executive of that company.
Safely Kept was a brilliant sprinter who won 24 of 31 starts, including the 1990 BC Sprint, for trainer Alan Goldberg. She was the champion sprinter in 1989, when she won 8 of 9 but finished second in the BC Sprint.
Her award was accepted by Barry Weisbord, one of the co-owners of the filly, who - between a lengthy recitation of his resume - said Safely Kept helped cement a relationship between he, Goldberg, and co-owner Richard Santulli.
“Simple twists of fate have led to a lifetime of friendships,” said Weisbord, who called racing the “consuming nature of my existence.”
Weisbord said Safely Kept always performed at her best, “except when we did something stupid, like rate her or send her long.”
Weisbord is an adviser to Flay, who has turned his boyhood passion for racing into a promising portfolio of horses that he owns. They are led by More Than Real, who won last year’s BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, replays of which Flay said he has watched “at least 300 times.”
Flay admitted that he “asked to be asked” to be the keynote speaker, owing to his relationships with Weisbord, Goldberg, and Santulli.
“They introduced me to the game the right way, with honesty and integrity,” Flay said.
Flay told an amusing story of how, as a teenager in the summers, he would go to the races with his grandfather, Willie Flay.
“We were at Atlantic Beach, and he’d look for one cloud in the sky, and as soon as he saw that one cloud, he’d say, ‘We can’t go to the beach today. Let’s go to Belmont,’” Flay recalled.
Flay said the first time he came to Saratoga with his father and grandfather, “I was hooked.”
Appropriate for a well-known chef, Flay denoted a few of his favorite local restaurants, including Hattie’s, Mrs. London’s, and The Wishing Well.
Moss said it was only natural that “an Iron Chef shares an iron-clad love of racing.”
Ed Bowen, the chairman of the Hall of Fame committee, summarized the careers of the selections of the historic review committee. Former jockey William Tichenor accepted for Barnes - the leading jockey of 1888 and 1889 - who was born in the same hometown as Tichenor.
“Up until a couple of weeks ago, I thought I was the only and the best jockey from Beaver Dam, Kentucky,” Tichenor said.
Byrnes, who had his greatest success in the late 19th century, trained such greats as Salvator and Firenze, a mare who won 47 of 82 starts. His award was accepted via video tribute by Happy Broadbent, the great-great-grandson of James Ben Ali Haggin, for whom Byrnes trained.
Duke of Magenta, a winner of 15 of 19 starts, won 11 of 12 starts at age 3, including the Preakness, Belmont, and Travers. His award was presented to Brien Bouyea, the Hall’s publicist.