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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