08/12/2004 11:00PM

Hall tightens voting

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The eligibility of jockeys for inclusion in the Hall of Fame, and the percentage of votes needed for anyone to qualify for the Hall, both were made more stringent in rule modifications announced Friday by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Jockeys will now become eligible 20 years after they begin riding. They had been eligible after only 15 years. This rule change will not go into effect until 2006. Had this rule change been on the books this year, for instance, Hall of Fame inductee Kent Desormeaux would not yet have been eligible.

In addition, beginning next year, finalists in each of the four categories on the ballot - jockey, trainer, female horse, male horse - must receive votes from 75 percent of the approximately 150 Hall of Fame voters in order to gain entry into the Hall.

There will be five finalists in each category, and voters will be able to select up to three of the five. If, however, more than one finalist in a category is named on at least 75 percent of the ballots, only the one with the most votes will gain entry that year. If no one receives 75 percent, there will be no inductee in that category that year.

The museum's president, John von Stade, said the new procedure "insures the integrity of the honor even more than the previous system did."