08/05/2007 11:00PM

Santos hears crowd roar one more time

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Joseph DiOrio/Horsephotos
Jose Santos received three standing ovations during Monday's ceremony.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The largest induction class for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in nearly 30 years begat a standing-room-only audience for Monday's ceremonies, but it was clear that of the five people and three horses that made up the group of eight, there was one in particular the fans wanted to see.

Not once, not twice, but an unprecedented three times, jockey Jose Santos received a standing ovation. It was an acknowledgment of his outstanding career, the poignancy of being inducted only a week after announcing his retirement, and, perhaps, the symbolism connecting Santos and the keynote speech given by Rick Pitino, the basketball coach at the University of Louisville and a passionate racing fan and owner.

Before Santos and his fellow inductees - jockey John Sellers, trainers Henry Forrest, Frank McCabe, and John Veitch, and horses Mom's Command, Silver Charm, and Swoon's Son - were honored at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion, Pitino implored the audience to avoid what he called "the fellowship of the miserable" and instead go through life looking at what's good, not bad.

"You have a choice each day when you wake up: to be happy or sad, to be ordinary or extraordinary," Pitino said.

Santos, 46, exemplified that during his career. He arrived in this country from his native Chile in 1984 with $2,000 and no ability to speak English. Yet he endeared himself to trainers and owners with his skill, work ethic, and positive attitude, even in the darkest moments. In his acceptance speech, Santos - who won more than 4,000 races - made no mention of the back injuries this spring that forced his retirement, nor of the controversy he was dragged into following absurd allegations by the Miami Herald that he had used an illegal electrical device when Funny Cide won the 2003 Kentucky Derby. Santos accentuated the positive.

"Jose has lived the American dream," said owner Bob Goodman, who has known Santos for more than 20 years and was chosen by Santos to introduce him at the Hall of Fame ceremonies. "He has so much class."

Santos received several chuckles from the audience, the first coming when he said he had a long list of people to thank, then produced a long sheet of paper.

"It's a long list," he said. "I came here in 1984, a long time ago."

Santos first thanked trainer P.G. Sims - who trained for Goodman and his uncle Matty in Florida - for putting him on his first two winners in this country, and for giving him a chance.

"I didn't understand what he was telling me, but I was there," Santos said.

Santos said that Manila, the 1986 Breeders' Cup Turf winner, was "the best horse I ever rode in my life." Among the trainers he thanked were Leroy Jolley, trainer of Manila, along with P.G. Johnson, Jeff Lukas, and Scotty Schulhofer.

Santos got another good laugh when he said he wanted to thank his agents.

"I went through a lot of them," he said.

After Santos finished and received his final standing ovation, a number of audience members left, even though the program, which lasted 1 hour and 50 minutes, was only half over.

Those who stayed to the end heard a passionate, and all too brief, acceptance speech from Veitch, who joined his father, Syl, in the Hall of Fame. Veitch was best known for training Alydar, but also trained a number of top horses for both Calumet Farm and Darby Dan Farm, including Before Dawn, Davona Dale, Our Mims, Proud Truth, and Sunshine Forever.

Veitch, 62, was introduced by his cousin Michael, who is a well-known racing journalist and a Hall of Fame trustee. Michael Veitch said his cousin "treasured the sportsmanship" of the 1978 Triple Crown, in which Alydar finished second to Affirmed in all three legs.

The erudite Veitch said he was "privileged to train for two of racing's great dynasties," who gave generously to "the long and honored tradition of the turf."

"There's no greater animal in the world than the Thoroughbred," said Veitch, who in his current job as chief steward for the state of Kentucky has been an outspoken advocate for integrity in racing from trainers.

"The primary goal of my life always has been and always will be whether I succeed or fail to make my mother and father proud of me," Veitch said. "They would be proud of me today."

Like Santos, Veitch received a standing ovation when he finished.

Santos and Veitch were elected from a group of contemporary nominees. The contemporary horses voted in this year were the filly Mom's Command and Silver Charm.

Mom's Command won 11 of 16 starts, including the Acorn Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama Stakes at age 3. She was introduced by Ed Gray, a racing writer who was working for the Boston Herald when Mom's Command's raced.

Gray said Mom's Command's sweep of New York's four major races for 3-year-old fillies, culminating with the Alabama, "left no doubt that she was a horse for history."

Peter Fuller, owner of Mom's Command, was too ill to attend the ceremonies. His son, Peter Jr., and daughter, Abby - who rode Mom's Command - accepted, along with Ned Allard, who trained Mom's Command.

"It's a huge honor to be here," Abby Fuller-Catalano said. "I never got to win the Derby, but this is even better."

Mom's Command was euthanized earlier this year, on Feb. 3.

Silver Charm, trained by Bob Baffert, won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Dubai World Cup during a sensational career that saw him win 12 of 24 starts. Gary Stevens, who rode Silver Charm to his three biggest wins, presented Silver Charm's plaque to Beverly Lewis, who owned Silver Charm with her late husband, Bob.

"When people ask me who's the most famous horse I've ridden, I tell them it's got to be Seabiscuit," Stevens said, joking, referring to his role as George Woolf in the movie "Seabiscuit." "But my favorite horse has got to be Silver Charm."

Silver Charm was not a flashy work horse, Stevens said, "but in the afternoons, he would rise to the occasion." His narrow win in Dubai showed, Stevens said, that "he had too much heart, and too much class, like his owners, Robert and Beverly Lewis."

Beverly Lewis called Silver Charm a "horse that was very determined."

"He'd wait until the last second," she said, "and then stick his nose out."

Silver Charm is currently at stud in Japan.

The eight inductees this year were the most since nine were inducted in 1978.