08/07/2002 12:00AM

Hall inductions a memorable time


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Racing has no more moving ceremony than the inductions to the Hall of Fame, held here earlier this week. This is a significant honor and inductees, to a man - and a woman, since the installation of Julie Krone - often reach new heights of emotion in accepting the cherished recognition.

The National Museum of Racing maintains the Hall of Fame and does an outstanding job in the presentation of its activities. It has, for example, set a high standard in its selection of guests of honor for the induction program and had another winner on Monday in Charlsie Cantey.

Cantey, the noted television commentator, traced the notable progress of women in all phases of racing. She also struck a responsive chord with the observation that racing plays a key role in the production of thousands of Thoroughbreds each year and has an obligation to care for them when their racing careers are concluded.

The inductions, as noted, are special moments, in part because of the high standards set in their selection. Noor had to wait half a century before laurels were finally accorded for his series of brilliant victories over the great Citation. He was always deserving, but there were others deserving, too, and some of them took precedence, just as Noor did.

One of the horses of yesteryear, defeated in the voting by a panel of 100 from across the country, won 22 stakes during a magnificent career in which he won 30 of 51 starts. He earned $970,605 at a time when that sum should probably be multiplied by five for comparisons with today's purses.

Swoon's Son was the toast of the Midwest during his spectacular campaigns at 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the mid-1950's. Owned an bred by E. Gay Drake and trained by A.G. "Lex" Wilson, he was ridden in most of his races by Dave Erb, who now makes his home on a small farm near Saratoga.

A good deal of water has flowed over the dam in the interim but Erb has some vivid memories to share.

"He was an outstanding horse, one of the best I ever rode," Erb said. "He had great speed and could carry it the middle distances. Above all, he had considerable determination and was rarely beaten when he deserved to win."

Erb got the mount on Swoon's Son under unusual circumstances. In a maiden race at Gulfstream Park for 2-year-olds of 1955 going three furlongs, Swoon's Son broke from the inside in a field of 14 while Erb, on another colt, had an outside post. Swoon's Son broke in a tangle, angled out, and collided with Erb's mount before recovering and finishing first. Erb lodged an objection, and Swoon's Son was disqualified. Later that fall, Swoon's Son won the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs, and Erb was trainer Wilson's choice to ride him.

"Lex was a great man as well as a great trainer," Erb said. "When Needles ran against Swoon's Son in the American Derby of 1956, I was obligated to ride Needles, whom I rode to win the Kentucky Derby and Belmont. Lex told me he understood and that I wouldn't lose the mount in Swoon's Son's subsequent races. He kept his word."

Swoon's Son won the Arlington Futurity and Washington Park Futurity at 2, the Arlington Classic and the American Derby at 3, and two runnings of the Equipoise Mile when that race was among the premier miles in the country. In one of those Equipoise Miles, Swoon's Son defeated Calumet Farm's brilliant Bardstown, a leader of the handicap division, and Erb feels that was Swoon Son's greatest race.

He didn't make the Hall of Fame this year, but his time will come.