05/25/2004 12:00AM

McGaughey makes it first try


The greatest race trainer Shug McGaughey ever won was when Personal Ensign got up in the very last jump to win the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff and complete a perfect 13-for-13 career. Getting into the Hall of Fame was not nearly as stressful.

In his first year on the ballot, McGaughey on Tuesday became the latest trainer named to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Also announced as 2004 inductees were jockey Kent Desormeaux, the outstanding grass mare Flawlessly, and Skip Away, a four-time champion who, like McGaughey, made it into the Hall of Fame the first time he appeared on the ballot.

All four will be inducted in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Aug. 9.

More than 140 voters cast ballots this year. McGaughey and Skip Away were considered overwhelming favorites in their categories, and both Desormeaux and Flawlessly were also favored. Trainers are eligible for the Hall of Fame after being licensed for 25 years. Jockeys are eligible after riding for 15 years. Racehorses are eligible five years following retirement.

McGaughey, 53, beat out John Veitch and Nick Zito, the other two finalists. The Hall of Fame does not reveal vote totals. McGaughey for nearly 20 years has been the private trainer for the Phipps family, for whom he has trained six champions - Easy Goer, Heavenly Prize, Inside Information, Personal Ensign, Rhythm, and Storm Flag Flying. He also trained champions Queena and Vanlandingham. McGaughey won the Eclipse Award as champion trainer in 1988.

McGaughey has won eight Breeders' Cup races and one Triple Crown race, the 1989 Belmont Stakes, in which Easy Goer scored his lone victory in four meetings against Sunday Silence. McGaughey has also won the Travers Stakes three times, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup three times, in addition to races such as the Alabama Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Spinster Stakes, and Wood Memorial.

"I'm very excited," McGaughey said during a teleconference Tuesday. "I'm thrilled to be thought of that way."

McGaughey has won 1,379 races and his horses have earned $83,918,770 in purses, but no victory was as dramatic as that of Personal Ensign in her career finale. Racing over a muddy Churchill Downs track she clearly did not like, Personal Ensign managed to run down that year's Derby winner, Winning Colors.

"For her to retire undefeated, she's the one that stands out," McGaughey said. "It wasn't as much exciting as it was relief."

Desormeaux, 34, beat out Eddie Maple, Randy Romero, and Jose Santos. He is one of only three jockeys to have won Eclipse Awards as both an apprentice and a journeyman. The other two, Steve Cauthen and Chris McCarron, were already in the Hall of Fame.

Desormeaux has won three Eclipse Awards as champion jockey. He holds the single-season record for victories by a jockey, with 598 wins in 1989. He has won 4,419 races, and his mounts have earned $169,217,481. Desormeaux has won the Kentucky Derby twice, with Real Quiet in 1998 and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, and has won two Breeders' Cup races. He was the regular rider of 1993 Horse of the Year Kotashaan.

The popular Skip Away beat out Breeders' Cup grass race winners Lure and Manila in the male horse category. Skip Away was the champion 3-year-old of 1996, champion older horse of 1997, and both champion older horse and Horse of the Year in 1998. He won 18 of 38 starts - including the Breeders' Cup Classic and two runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup - and $9,616,360, which places him second on the current all-time earnings list.

Skip Away follows by one year the Hall of Fame induction of his late trainer, Sonny Hine, whose widow, Carolyn, owned Skip Away. The Hines acquired Skip Away for $22,500 as a 2-year-old. "How can one woman be so blessed?" she said. "I'm so honored. I'm living a dream."

Hine said Skip Away "kept Sonny going" while he was being treated for cancer. "He gave Sonny more years," Hine said. "Skippy was not like a horse. He was like a member of the family."

Flawlessly, who beat out finalists Mom's Command and Sky Beauty in the female horse category, was an overdue and worthy addition to the Hall of Fame. In five seasons on the track she won 16 of 28 starts and was the champion female turf runner in 1992 and 1993. She won nine Grade 1 races, including the unprecedented feat of three consecutive runnings of both the Ramona Handicap at Del Mar and Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Flawlessly was the best runner sired by 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. Like Affirmed, Flawlessly was bred and owned by the Harbor View Farm of Lou and Patrice Wolfson. "She was tough like her sire," Patrice Wolfson said.