08/06/2006 11:00PM

One-time keen rivals join elite club together

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Former jockey Bill Boland (above) and ex-trainer Carl Hanford once battled each other with Beau Purple and Kelso.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - More than 40 years ago, trainer Carl Hanford and jockey Bill Boland were always circling one another, through memorable battles with Kelso and Beau Purple. On Monday morning here, they made it into one of racing's most-prized winner's circles, joining one another on the podium for induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Hanford and Boland, along with the champion turf horse Cougar II, were the 2006 inductees. All were chosen by the Hall of Fame's historic review committee, which meets every two years. It was a good thing the committee met this year, and chose three inductees, because none of the 12 contemporary nominees to the Hall of Fame was chosen by the Hall's larger voting bloc, an inglorious first.

To be eligible for the historic review committee, a person or horse must have had his career end more than 25 years earlier. With no contemporary inductees to join them, the crowd this year at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion was smaller than years past, with numerous empty seats in the back of the lower bowl.

Hanford, 90, trained Kelso to an unprecedented five consecutive Horse of the Year titles in the 1960's, during which time Kelso won the Jockey Club Gold Cup - then run at two miles - five straight years. His presentation was made by John Von Stade, the chairman of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Hanford, looking spry, was self-deprecating in his comments.

"I'm here because of one horse and one horse only," Hanford said. "There's an old saying that a good racehorse is dangerous in anyone's hands. How true that is. I don't think anyone ever had their hands on a horse like Kelso."

Hanford first trained horses in 1939 at Charles Town, but had his career interrupted for five years during World War II while serving in the Army's Remount Division. He went to work in 1960 for Allaire du Pont, who owned Kelso. When Kelso retired in 1966, he had won 39 of 63 starts.

"The phrase 'five-time Horse of the Year' applies to Kelso and to Kelso alone," said Ed Bowen, the chairman of the Hall of Fame committee.

"My accomplishments didn't get me here. Kelso's did," Hanford said.

Hanford said he regretted that du Pont, who died in April, and his wife, Millie, who died last year, did not live to see this day. "Millie was always my strongest supporter," he said.

Boland had similar emotional remarks planned for his wife, Sandy, who had surgery for kidney cancer four months ago and was at Monday's ceremonies. But Boland became so choked up early in his prepared remarks that he stopped after pausing twice.

"I wanted to introduce her, but I was afraid I was going to break up," Boland said after the ceremony.

Boland, 72, won the 1950 Kentucky Derby with Middleground as a 16-year-old apprentice. He won 1,980 races, including three upsets of Kelso with Beau Purple. He was presented by Allen Jerkens, who trained Beau Purple and is not exactly known for being comfortable as a public speaker

"He was so worried he couldn't do it, but he was great," said Boland, who was described by Jerkens as "someone who rode clean."

"No one rode better," Jerkens said.

Boland told a story about an exchange he had with Jerkens after an unexpected loss.

"Did you get enough sleep last night?" Boland said Jerkens asked.

"Yes," Boland replied.

"Well, you fell asleep on that one," Jerkens said.

After making a few remarks, Boland paused and said, "I think I'm going to cry." He spoke about leaving King Ranch in Texas for Belmont Park in New York in 1948, then paused again and said, "I can't talk." After walking from the podium, he received a standing ovation.

Cougar II, known as "The Big Cat," was the Eclipse Award-winning turf horse in 1972. Cougar II, a native of Chile, was the first foreign-bred millionaire in American racing. He won 20 of 50 starts, including 15 of 38 in this country for trainer Charlie Whittingham. His wins included the Californian and Santa Anita Handicap on dirt, and the Oak Tree Invitational and Carleton F. Burke Handicap on turf. He also sired Gato Del Sol, the 1982 Kentucky Derby winner.

Arthur Hancock III, who syndicated Cougar II, stood him at his Stone Farm, and was co-owner and breeder of Gato Del Sol, presented Cougar II's Hall of Fame plaque to Ellen Hunt, the daughter of Mary Jones Bradley, Cougar II's owner. Bradley was unable to travel from her home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

"My mother might be a few thousand miles away, but I assure you her heart is here," Hunt said.

Tom Durkin, the racecaller for the New York Racing Association, gave an inspiring keynote address. On a day when the past was celebrated, Durkin opined emphatically that racing's good old days are, in fact, today. Durkin compared the sparse crowds at Saratoga 50 years ago to the throngs that attend today, pointed out the merits of the Breeders' Cup - "it didn't exist in the 'Golden Days' of racing," he said - and illustrated the large crowds that have attended Triple Crown races in recent years.

"These days, the Triple Crown series is more popular than ever," Durkin said.