08/27/2002 12:00AM

Worthy inductees honored


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame will honor its 2002 inductees Thursday at a ceremonial dinner at the nearby Toronto Congress Centre.

Jockey Ted Atkinson, trainer Mac Benson, owner/breeder/racetrack operator Frank Stronach, and champion Chief Bearhart will be the inductees for Thoroughbred racing.

The four gained at least 75 percent of the votes of the 16-member election committee, which chose from six nominees.

Ted Atkinson, born in 1916 in Toronto, was North America's champion rider in 1944 and 1946, in both races and money won. He was elected to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in 1957, and retired in 1959 with 3,975 winners from a 22-year career. His autobiography, "All the Way," was published in 1961.

Benson, who turned 72 in June, is in his 44th year as a trainer and has been based at Woodbine since 1978.

His career highlights include Queen's Plate wins with Regal Embrace in 1978 and La Lorgnette in 1985.

Stronach, who was born in Austria in 1932 and emigrated to Canada in 1954, will be inducted into the builders category, which includes owners, breeders, and racetrack executives.

His Magna Entertainment Corporation, which was spun off from automotive giant Magna International, is the largest Thoroughbred racetrack operator in North America.

Stronach's personal racing interests also have been highly successful. He has been honored with three consecutive Eclipse Awards in the owner category (1998-2000); an Eclipse in the breeder category in 2000; six Sovereign Awards as outstanding owner; and four Sovereigns as outstanding breeder.

Chief Bearhart, who campaigned for Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad, was the Eclipse Award-winning turf horse in 1997 after winning the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf and Canadian International.

Bred in Ontario by Richard Maynard, Chief Bearhart also was Canada's horse of the year in 1997 and 1998, the Sovereign Award-winning turf horse from 1996 through 1998, and the Sovereign Award-winning older horse in 1997.

Chief Bearhart retired with earnings of $3,462,014 following his 1998 campaign and was sold to Japanese interests as a stallion prospect.

Also being inducted Thursday will be Standardbred representatives Irving Liverman, in the builder category; pacers Staying Together and Super Wave; and driver/trainer Bud Fritz.