04/28/2003 11:00PM

Sonny Hine heads Hall inductees


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Carolyn Hine was sworn to secrecy a couple of weeks ago when she was told her husband and longtime trainer Sonny had been elected into Thoroughbred racing's Hall of Fame. Still, there was one person she had to tell.

So, Carolyn drove to the south Florida cemetery where Sonny was buried three years ago to tell him. Tuesday, she got to share her feelings with the rest of the racing world when it was officially announced that Sonny Hine had been elected to racing's Hall of Fame.

"We wish for things, we pray for things, we hope for things," an emotional Carolyn Hine said in the Churchill Downs press box, where the announcement was made Tuesday morning. "My prayers have been answered. There are not enough words in the world to express how I feel. The only thing I regret is my husband is not here to accept this."

Hine was elected into the Hall of Fame along with jockey Mike Smith and equine champions Precisionist and Dance Smartly. The induction ceremonies will be held on Aug. 4 at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., home of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Sonny Hine, who died on March 17, 2000, at the age of 69, beat out Mel Stute and John Veitch for the honor. Hine is credited with more than 1,300 victories in a career that began in the 1950's. He won stakes with 46 horses.

Hine is best known as the trainer of Skip Away, a horse he bought for $22,500 as a birthday present for Carolyn and whom he turned into a three-time champion and 1998 Horse of the Year. Other major stakes winners trained by Hine included champion sprinter Guilty Conscience, Skip Trial, Amber Pass, Cojak, Bet Big, Norquestor, and Technology.

Skip Away won 18 of 38 starts and banked $9,616,360. He won 16 stakes, including 10 Grade 1's. He was one of two horses to win back-to-back runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, defeating Cigar in 1996 and winning again in 1997. He also won the 1997 Breeders' Cup Classic.

"It was quite a ride," Carolyn Hine said.

Smith was aboard for the ride in the 1997 Classic, which Skip Away won by six lengths at Hollywood Park. It was one of 10 Breeders' Cup victories recorded by Smith, who won last year's Juvenile aboard Vindication and Distaff aboard Azeri.

Smith, 37, beat out Randy Romero and Eddie Maple for the honor. Smith has won 4,219 races in a career that began in 1982.

"I kind of feel guilty in a way," Smith said from California. "As you know, Eddie and Randy, those two guys are my idols. If I had to vote, I'd put them in before me. I'm very grateful and happy to be in and thank all the people that voted for me, but they were around before me. There weren't as many opportunities in their prime as there were in mine."

Smith led the nation in earnings in 1993 with more than $14 million and won numerous riding titles on the New York Racing Association circuit before moving his tack west two years ago. In 1994, Smith set a record for stakes wins with 67. He has won two Eclipse Awards as the nation's leading rider.

Among the best horses Smith has ridden are Azeri, Holy Bull, Coronado's Quest, Lure, and Sky Beauty. He won the 1993 Preakness on Prairie Bayou.

Precisionist was one of the more versatile horses of his era, winning Grade 1 races at distances from six furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. His victory in the 1985 Breeders' Cup Sprint clinched an Eclipse Award as champion sprinter. Earlier that season he swept California's Strub Series with victories in the 1984 Malibu and 1985 San Fernando and Strub Stakes.

Precisionist won 17 stakes - 13 graded - and banked $3,485,398 for owner-breeder Fred Hooper. Precisionist, now 22 years old, lives at Dr. Siobhan Ellison's farm in Ocala, Fla. Precisionist was voted in over Ancient Title and Manila.

Dance Smartly won 12 of 17 starts from 1990 to 1992 and in 1991 became the first filly to win Canada's Triple Crown. She beat males again in that year's Molson Million and capped her championship season with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She was voted Canada's Horse of the Year as well as an Eclipse Award as the top 3-year-old filly.

She was bred and owned by Ernie Samuel's Sam-Son Farms and was trained by Jim Day. She earned $3,263,836.

Dance Smartly was voted in over Flawlessly and Sky Beauty.