AMERICAN GRADED STAKES STANDINGS brought to you by Keeneland: WHY NO HALL FOR HOLLENDORFER?

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By Ray Paulick

No Thoroughbred trainer will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., when ceremonies are held at the Fasig-Tipton sale pavilion on the morning of Aug. 13. Under new voting procedures this year, the top four vote getters among nominees in four categories—contemporary male horse, contemporary female horse, jockey and trainer—were elected for induction into the Hall of Fame. In this year’s voting, two horses in the male category (Point Given and Best Pal), one female (Azeri) and one jockey (Randy Romero) were elected. Neither of the two trainers on the ballot, Gary Jones nor Robert Wheeler, were among the top four.


The Hall of Fame has tinkered with its nomination and election procedures in recent years. For most of its history, the annual Hall of Fame vote resulted in one candidate from each of the four categories being elected. Then, briefly, there was a threshold level set that required finalists to receive a certain percentage of votes to be elected in each category. That was scrapped when virtually no one was getting elected. Then, this year, the top four vote getters were elected regardless of their category.


Nomination for the ballot, which is done by committee, was conducted under similar procedures, meaning there could be multiple candidates in one category and none in another. Sound confusing? It is, but I think this year’s election procedures are an improvement over how the nomination and voting process has been conducted in the past, and I have no quarrels with who was and who wasn’t elected.


Having said that, it is surprising to me that trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was not on this year’s ballot. In fact, he’s never been a finalist on the ballot for election into the Hall of Fame.


Hollendorfer has won a total of 5,712 races, ranking him fourth all time behind the late Dale Baird (9,445), Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg (6,400), and King Leatherbury (6,298). There have been calls for Baird and Leatherbury to be inducted into the Hall of Fame based on their sheer number of wins, but neither trainer has come close to accomplishing what Hollendorfer has in American Graded Stakes.


Once a big fish in the small pond of Northern California racing, which he has completely dominated for more the past 25 years, Hollendorfer has been steadily building his resume of national success. This year, while he “only” has trained four American Graded Stakes winners, Hollendorfer’s two stable stars, the fillies Tuscan Evening and Blind Luck, have combined to win a remarkable 10 AGS races. His other 2010 AGS winners are City to City and Skipshot, the latter pulling off an upset of Sidney’s Candy in the recent Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park.


Blind Luck became Hollendorfer’s third Kentucky Oaks winner earlier this year (he won in 1991 with Lite Light and in 1996 with Pike Place Dancer), putting him in some very good company among modern-day trainers. Hall of Famers Woody Stephens won the Oaks five times, D. Wayne Lukas four times, Robert Frankel and Lazaro Barrera twice, and Charles Whittingham once.


Hollendorfer, a 64-year-old native of Akron, Ohio, has won a number of other AGS races inside and out of California over the years, but those successes are increasing. In fact, Blind Luck’s 2010 AGS wins have occurred at Santa Anita Park, Oaklawn Park, Churchill Downs and Delaware Park. Tuscan Evening won four AGS races at Santa Anita Park and one at Hollywood Park, but her most recent win came at Arlington Park, where she is expected to return for the Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes on Arlington Million day next month.


Currently ranked fourth among trainers by money won in 2010, Hollendorfer is getting noticed more and more around the country as more than just a claiming trainer. Maybe one of these days, he’ll have the chance to be considered for racing’s highest honor, the Hall of Fame.



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  • FourCats

    “Hollendorfer is getting noticed more and more around the country as more than just a claiming trainer.”

    I’ve never understood why a trainer of mostly claimers is denigrated as “just a claiming trainer” because the horses he/she trains have limited ability. In my opinion, it takes more skill and work by such a trainer to take those claimers and turn them in successful horses than it does to take horses with naturally high ability (and most likely cost 100s of thousands at the sales) and get them to win stakes races.

  • http://www.LWSracing.com East Coast

    Jerry does deserve to get in to the Hall…probably more so than the other two.

  • Kevin A Burke

    Yes, I can well agree with you, Jerry Hollendorfer does appear to merit at the very least, ballot nomination for induction in the Hall of Fame.

    The entire Hall of Fame “Process of Induction” from my distant prospective, appears to be one of politics, confusion, and without a true direction in purpose. Definitely, outside of the thoroughbred media, the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony does not receive the optimum publicity. What this is a reflection of could be the subject of much debate. It is probably caused by many different factors. Yet I can not help but think that chief among these reasons is the failure of the mainstream media to connect with the inductees. Is this caused by the failure of the Hall of Fame to present/make that connection, or is it that the Hall of Fame Inductees do not connect with the world outside of thoroughbred racing except with their close associations and the die hard thoroughbred fan?

    The induction of a trainer such as Jerry Hollendofer, or Bill Turner, (my pick as the most overlooked deserving candidate) would honor the careers of of these Hall of Fame Trainers.
    That they are not so officially recognized, they both have the historical and present day ongoing body of work that does demands such.

    Aside from the worth of induction by both of these individuals, the induction of both or either could be made to connect with the the media, the world, outside of thoroughbred racing. Hey, but that might attract new fans, it might stir a renewed interest, and I guess that is not the job of the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame. I mean this is not Baseball.

  • ace

    I was lucky enough to interact with Jerry for a very short time. If you go on the backside any morning you will find him there way earlier than any other trainer, even after all these years, checking horses legs etc. in the dark.
    Class guy, deserves everything he has won by outworking his competition.

  • BIG BRO

    JERRY HOLLENDORFER CERTAINLY HAS THE STATS FOR CONSIDERATION.THERE ARE MORE THINGS THAT GO INTO THE PROCESS THAN JUST STATS,I WILL NOT CAST ASPERSIONS ON HIM BUT DO WANT TO MENTION THAT HE HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF DOING SOME OF THE THINGS THAT RELEGATED DALE BAIRD TO A SPECIAL AWARD AND NOT ENSHRINEMENT.IF YOU WANT TO TAKE A LOOK AT A FEW OF THOSE THINGS AND DECIDE FOR YOURSELF,JUST GOOGLE HIS NAME AND CHECK IT OUT FOR YOURSELF.
    THE ONLY PERSONAL CONTACT THAT I HAD WITH HIM DOES NOT PUT HIM IN THE HALL OF FAME FOR HUMAN BEINGS,STILL,DECIDE FOR YOURSELF.

  • watcher

    Ace is right on. No one at the track works harder than Hollendorfer. Jerry worked his way up the hard way, first as a van driver for Jerry Dutton, then training a few horses on the side. His first big success was a $6250 claim named NOVEL SPRITE, who earned more than $400,000 for him.

    Unlike some of the big-named trainers whose success can largely be attributed to their keen ability to wrest kickbacks from yearling consignors, Hollendorfer has used his skill as a horseman to pick up bargains year after year which he develops into Graded stakes winners. And instead of bilking his owners, he’s made millions for some of them.

    IMO Hollendorfer is the most successful U.S. trainer today.

  • Jim C.

    Three words: East Coast Bias.

  • artark

    If Dale Baird doesn’t belong, neither does Jerry Hollendorfer.

  • Lost In The Fog

    Jim C nailed it! It’s utterly ridiculous that a trainer who has accomplished as much as Hollendorfer is not in the HOF. Even more so that he’s never even been a finalist on the ballot. Cheap claimers, graded-stakes-winning horses and everything in between – Hollendorfer wins again and again.

  • ace

    Without looking up Dale Baird’s graded race accomplishments, I am going to guess his record in that category pales to Hollendorfer’s.
    Why are there so many ill-informed poster’s here?
    Its almost beyond belief.

  • joe

    Voters should be impressed by the best not the biggest.

    Industry stats, awards and honors should be based on whole careers including equine welfare and safety records and rap sheets not just races and money won. Racing wants to keep its dark side out of sight and out of mind. As long as that’s the case, it cannot improve.

    Heavenly Perfect – RIP would vote NO.

  • MED

    Heavenly Perfect. That’s why he doesn’t belong.

  • Margrethe

    If HOF members were dependent on equine welfare & safely records, you’d have to remove a number of current honorees.
    Further, how can they possibly award an Eclipse to trainers which have had suspensions during the that same year?

  • John S.

    I really like the late push by Hollendorfer, branching out from being the Northern California bully to a national presence — he is worthy — but, really, you all need to do a close examination of King Leatherbury’s career. It is an absolute disgrace this man is not in the Hall of Fame. Ahead of Baird. There certainly is no East Coast bias favoring him, is there? Don’t talk about ignorance, posters, until you come to terms with Leatherbury’s record. Period. I only know a few voters, and I lobby them every year, but it doesn’t budge. There is possibly a bias against the Mid-Atlantic, the way I see it. You can count on one hand, in the history of racing, fillies and mares that might — might — be better than Safely Kept sprinting. Maybe none, but she doesn’t get a sniff. What did she need to win to get in the Hall of Fame? What about her record does not deserve not only inclusion but veneration? Same with King. He is overwhelming. God, I’m tired of watching them get passed over, especially while they are alive.

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