03/21/2005 1:00AM

Zito on Hall of Fame ballot; voting procedures changed


Dale Baird, the winningest trainer in history, and Nick Zito, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, are among the five trainers nominated this year to the Hall of Fame, it was announced on Monday by John von Stade, the president of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Three other trainers - Gary Jones, Mel Stute, and John Veitch - also were nominated, along with five jockeys, five female horses, and five male horses.

The nominees among jockeys are Eddie Maple, who won more than 4,000 races and has been on the ballot several times; Craig Perret, who won the Derby with Unbridled; Randy Romero, whose best mounts included Go for Wand and Personal Ensign; Jose Santos, who won the Derby with Funny Cide and is an Eclipse Award winner; and Milo Valenzuela, the regular rider for Kelso.

The five nominees for female racehorse are Eclipse Award winners Inside Information, Mom's Command, Open Mind, Silverbulletday, and Sky Beauty.

The male runners are the venerable gelding Best Pal, champion sprinter Housebuster, two-time Breeders' Cup Mile winner Lure, champion turf horse Manila, and Derby winner Silver Charm.

Baird last year surpassed the 9,000-win mark for his career. He received a Special Eclipse Award earlier this year for that achievement. Zito has won the Derby with Strike the Gold and Go for Gin, and has several top candidates this year. Veitch had his greatest years with Calumet Farm, for which he trained Alydar. Stute trained champions Brave Raj and Snow Chief. Jones was a perennial leader in Southern California and trained such high-class runners as Best Pal, Kostroma, and Turkoman.

A number of voting procedures have been changed this year for the Hall of Fame, and could impact the selection process. The 163 voters can now vote for as many as three candidates per category, but only the candidate with the most votes will get into the Hall of Fame, and only if the winner receives votes from 75 percent of the electorate.

This process moves racing's Hall of Fame closer to the guidelines of the baseball hall of fame, but there are significant differences. For instance, in baseball every candidate who gets 75 percent of the vote gets in.

The racing Hall of Fame, however, has decided to limit the inductees to at most one per category per year. If no candidate in a category receives votes from 75 percent of the electorate, no one from that category will be inducted.

The other significant change is that there are now five candidates per category. In recent years, there were three finalists per category, and the one receiving the most votes in that category was inducted, regardless of the number of votes received.

A 14-person nominating committee determined the finalists. Voters for the Hall of Fame are chosen by the Hall of Fame and include racing writers and editors, broadcast journalists, and racing historians.

Winners will be announced on May 31, and induction ceremonies will take place on Aug. 8 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.