06/12/2013 3:12PM

Louisiana Downs: Ardoin joining state’s Sports Hall of Fame alongside Shaquille O’Neal


BOSSIER CITY, La. – Ronald Ardoin will join elite company on June 29 when he is inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. The popular rider-turned-jockey’s agent will join six other riders and an owner in the hall, which inducted its first class in 1958.

Ardoin’s contemporaries Eddie Delahoussaye, Mark Guidry, Craig Perret, and Randy Romero are all members of the Hall, as are Eric Guerin, rider of Native Dancer, and J.D. Mooney, who piloted the legendary Black Gold. Eclipse Award-winning owner John Franks was inducted in 1995.

Joining Ardoin in the class of 2013 is former LSU and NBA great Shaquille O’Neal. This year’s ceremonies will include the grand opening of the new $23 million Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum, a 27,500-square-foot structure at 800 Front Street in the National Historic District of Natchitoches, La.

“Racing has become a popular sport for induction the last 12 years or so,” said Hall Foundation member and former media director of Louisiana Downs, Kent Lowe. “And I think we all know there are several potential inductees out there that are still riding.

“I’m really glad for Ardoin. It should be an amazing weekend with the opening of the new building.”

“It’s obviously a great honor,” Ardoin said earlier this week. “Words really don’t do it justice. To be acknowledged and found deserving is just a remarkable feeling.”

One of the best-kept secrets of the 5,000-win club, Ardoin found success almost exclusively in his home state. When he hung up his tack in 2003, the Carencro, La., native had won 5,226 races during a career that began at Delta Downs in 1973. He is the all-time leading rider at Louisiana Downs with 2,848 victories and five riding titles. At Fair Grounds in New Orleans, he won six riding crowns, including four straight from 1993-96. The 4,539 wins between the two tracks represent almost 90 percent of his career total. Ardoin’s one riding title outside the state came at Lone Star Park’s inaugural meeting in 1997.

“I’ve had a lot of people to thank,” said Ardoin, giving special credit to his wife of 38 years, Patti, and his daughter, Natalie. “They really supported me over the years. My father and mother, my sisters, everybody has just been great and are so proud. I just wish Jerry was still here to be part of this.”

Ardoin was referring to Jerry Harrison, his longtime agent who died of cancer several years ago.

“Jerry was a big fan of the Hall of Fame, always wanted to be a part of it. He would have really been exited over this.”

Ardoin is certainly honoring Harrison’s legacy. Since becoming an agent himself after retiring from the saddle, he has become almost as dominating booking mounts as he was on the track.

“I tried training for awhile after I retired, then sold tack, but I got bored. Lonnie Meche kept bugging me to take his book, so we hooked up and we won the riding title here [at Louisiana Downs] in our first year.”

In recent seasons, Ardoin has represented veteran Don Simington. The two have won a pair of riding titles at Louisiana Downs in the past four years. Ardoin is also the agent for Chris Rosier, giving him two of the top five riders at the current meeting. Rosier enjoyed a banner day last Sunday, visiting the winner’s circle four times.