03/15/2007 11:00PM

Let's honor all who deserve it


NEW YORK - The only problem with the 13 newest nominees to the Racing Hall of Fame is that almost every one of them belongs but only four can be inducted. That will be four more than made it last year, but it's still not enough.

Last year, an equally strong slate of nominees did not yield a single new Hall of Famer, due to some skewed rules that have since been improved though not perfected. This year the top vote-getter in each of four categories is a guaranteed inductee, so the class of 2007 will include Best Pal, Manila, or Silver Charm among contemporary males; Inside Information, Mom's Command, Silverbulletday, or Sky Beauty in the contemporary female group; Gary Jones, John Veitch, or Robert Wheeler in the trainer category; and Randy Romero, Jose Santos, or Alex Solis among the jockeys.

Regardless of the outcome, however, there will still be a backlog of deserving horses and people that requires remedial action.

The filly and mare category is the most glaring example. This year's four nominees are all no-brainer selections, and so are some others who didn't even make the cut this time, such as Heavenly Prize and Open Mind. Under the current rules limiting inductees to one per category each year, it would take at least six years for all of them to get in, but the situation will be compounded as new possibilities reach the retired-for-five-years criterion for eligibility. So it's going to take closer to a decade to get those six in as mares such as Azeri, Ashado, and Ouija Board become eligible in the years ahead.

The Hall's executive committee has consistently taken the position that inducting more than one honoree in each category in a year would diminish the achievement, but this seems a bit harsh, especially considering that the same committee's constantly changing and sometimes confusing rules have contributed to the backlog. It might make sense to consider a one-time catchup, where for at least one year there could be multiple inductees if a high percentage of voters thought them deserving.

The other fillies' feelings won't be hurt if they have to share induction honors, and it's hard to imagine their owners would consider it a slight to be enshrined alongside some other great ones. Other sports have multiple inductees to their halls of fame in the same year, and there's no good reason racing shouldn't do the same at least once to square things up.

Nader will be missed in New York

Everyone figured that regardless of who won the ongoing fight for the New York Racing Association franchise, the first current employee who would be rehired would be Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president and chief operating officer. Nader, widely regarded as the sharpest American track executive in the simulcasting and wagering fields, was a rare survivor of multiple NYRA administrations since signing on in 1994 and rising through the company under the successive presidencies of Gerry McKeon, Kenny Noe Jr., Terry Meyocks, Barry Schwartz, and Charlie Hayward.

On Friday, however, Nader announced that he will henceforth do business in the racing industry under the name of Lei Dat Yin, because Chinese-language newspapers can not transliterate his name. He is leaving NYRA, relocating to the Far East, and on April 23 will begin a three-year contract in the new role of executive director of racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Who can blame him? Working at NYRA has become a never-ending parade of court appearances, bid-writing, and political dogfighting. The state's voters approved slots at Aqueduct five years ago, and had they been implemented NYRA would be offering exorbitantly rich racing in sparkling new facilities by now. Instead, the company has become a perennial punching bag for self-promoting politicians, and may well be replaced entirely by either casino operators or state bureaucrats with little allegiance to the sport or expertise in the business.

Nader had both. NYRA would have declared bankruptcy long before last December without his efforts in taking the company from a laggard to a leader in the simulcasting world. Just as important, he was one of the industry's most fan-friendly executives, personally fielding horseplayers' complaints and soliciting advice from bettors before making changes in the track's television presentation and wagering menu.

His departure is a blow not only to NYRA at a time when it is fighting for its survival, but also to the game in general.