08/04/2002 11:00PM

Serena's Song: Talented and tough


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In honoring Serena's Song as Thoroughbred racing's newest contemporary female Hall of Fame inductee, trainer D. Wayne Lukas described her in terms that young and old alike could understand.

"She had the elegance of a Grace Kelly, she had the moves of a Ginger Rogers, and she had the charisma of a Marilyn Monroe," Lukas, Serena's Song's trainer, said before presenting the Hall of Fame plaque to owners Bob and Beverly Lewis. "For you people that are a lot younger and don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about, she had the moves of Janet Jackson and the charisma of Britney Spears."

Serena's Song was one of five inductees into racing's Hall of Fame on Monday as more than seven decades of Thoroughbred excellence was honored in a morning ceremony held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion on East Ave., across the street from Saratoga Race Course.

Serena's Song was inducted along with Cigar, contemporary male; Noor, horse of yesteryear; trainer Grover "Bud" Delp; and the late jockey Jack Westrope.

Purchased for $150,000 at auction by Lukas on behalf of the Lewises, Serena's Song won 17 graded stakes - including 11 Grade 1's - and had earned $3,283,388 when she retired in 1996. At the time it was the most money earned by a female horse in North America, although her mark has since been eclipsed by Spain. Though short in stature, Serena's Song had the intangibles that enabled her to beat the boys twice.

"It's not what we can see that counts, it's ultimately what we can't see that makes them great: it's the inside, the heart, and she had plenty of that," Lukas said. "She was tough."

Tough was a word used to describe owner Allen Paulson and his Maryland-bred Cigar, who won 16 consecutive races from 1994-96, and earned $9,999,815, the most of any Thoroughbred in North American history.

Madeleine Paulson, who traded the colt to her husband, Allen, after Cigar won the 1994 NYRA Mile - his second race in the streak - accepted the plaque from Les Benton, the chairman of the Dubai World Cup. Cigar won the inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996.

"Mr. Paulson and Cigar were tough, durable, dependable, and very genuine to the very end," said Bill Mott, who trained Cigar for the final 24 of his 33 career starts.

Madeleine Paulson brought up to the podium Mott, jockey Jerry Bailey, farm manager Ted Carr, and Tammy Siters, Cigar's caretaker at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

"Allen I'm sure is looking down at this, and I just want to tell him not even Castro had a Cigar as good as this one," she said.

While Cigar's 16-race winning streak equaled Citation's mark, set from 1948-50, Noor defeated Citation in four of five meetings in 1950 and was voted champion handicap horse of that year. Noor was the first horse to defeat two Triple Crown winners, twice defeating Assault.

Bred by the Aga Kahn, Noor was purchased by Charles S. Howard, who also owned Seabiscuit. Col. Mike Howard, the great-grandson of Charles Howard, accepted the plaque and presented museum officials with a scrapbook on Noor that was kept by Marcella Howard, the wife of Charles Howard.

In 1933, at the age of 15, Jack Westrope won 301 races from 1,224 mounts to lead all jockeys in America. He went on to ride for 26 years before being fatally injured when the filly Well Away threw him into the rail during the 1958 Hollywood Oaks. He won 2,467 races from 17,497 mounts and was the sport's eighth-leading rider at the time of his death.

"I'm sure that if he were here he'd be thrilled to be joining his best friends Johnny Longden, Eddie Arcaro, and Billy Shoemaker," said Westrope's daughter Pamela Westrope Donner, who accepted the plaque along with her mother, Terry Chafee, and son Joshua from Hall of Fame historian Tom Gilcoyne.

Longtime owner Harry Meyerhoff presented Delp with his Hall of Fame plaque. Meyerhoff was one of many people Delp thanked in his lengthy acceptance speech. Delp, who has trained for 40 years, is best known for conditioning Spectacular Bid to championships at 2, 3, and 4, including a Horse of the Year title in 1980. Delp, who has won more than 3,500 races in a career that is still going strong, called Bid "the best horse ever to look through a bridle."

In the back of the sales pavilion, Delp's uncle held a sign that read "G.G. Bud Delp: Best Trainer to Ever Look Thru Glasses."