08/26/2005 12:00AM

Hall honors Willmot, 3 other new members


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A sellout crowd of 300 was on hand at the Toronto Congress Centre near Woodbine on Thursday evening to welcome the 2005 inductees to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

David Willmot, chairman and chief executive office of Woodbine Entertainment Group, was among the four inductees to the Thoroughbred side of the Hall of Fame, a dual-breed institution located here at Woodbine. Four Standardbred representatives also were inducted.

Willmot, 55, has ties to both breeds, both in executive and racing modes.

A co-founder of the Canadian racing and breeding giant Kinghaven Farm, Willmot joins his father, the late D.G. Willmot, in the Hall's "builder" category. Kinghaven bred and raced Canadian Triple Crown winners With Approval and Izvestia, along with numerous other champions.

Willmot, a past president and currently vice chairman of Harness Tracks of America, also has become directly involved in Standardbred racing in recent years and is the co-owner of Canadian champions Southwind Allaire and Cabrini Hanover.

Ian Black, longtime Kinghaven Farm manager and now the trainer for the outfit, presented Willmot with his Hall of Fame ring.

Afterward, as Willmot accepted congratulations from a stream of well-wishers, he mused on the significance of the honor.

"It's always wonderful to be recognized for lifetime achievement, being included in this group of people that love the industry," said Willmot.

"But, I'm feeling a little ambivalent. I think I'm being recognized more as a racetrack manager than someone who's been at Kinghaven since the beginning. But I'd like to think it's as much recognition of my role at Kinghaven."

Willmot and two of the three equine Thoroughbred inductees - Cool Reception and Norcliffe - were elected into the Hall after receiving at least 75 percent of the vote from the 16 members of the Thoroughbred election committee, who chose from a list provided by the nominating committee.

Cool Reception, Canada's champion 2-year-old of 1966, finished second to Damascus in the 1967 Belmont, in which he sustained an injury that ultimately cost him his life. Lou Cavalaris, who is himself a Hall of Famer and considers Cool Reception to be the best horse he ever trained, made the presentation to owner Joan Reid.

Norcliffe won the 1976 Queen's Plate and back-to-back Sovereign Awards. His owner, Lt. Col. Charles "Bud" Baker, and his Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield, were in attendance.

Anita's Son, the other new Thoroughbred inductee, enters as the choice of the veteran's committee. Hugo Dittfach, the Hall of Fame jockey who rode Anita's Son and is now a trainer at Woodbine, made the presentation.

This year's Standardbred inductees are trainer Stew Firlotte, trotter Garland Lobell, trotter Glorys Comet, and pacer Armbro Omaha, who was the choice of the veteran's committee.

Dan Jukich, the announcer at Hastings in Vancouver, flew in to emcee Thursday's ceremony. Dennis Hull, a former National Hockey League player and noted raconteur, was the humorous guest speaker.

The fund-raising event also featured silent and live auctions.