In a Hall of Fame year bringing in two of the most beloved race mares of modern times and one of the sport's most controversial trainers, it's no surprise that Friday's induction ceremony was fraught with emotion.
The event, which took place at the Fasig-Tipton pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., saw Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Steve Asmussen, and Ramon Dominguez join the distinguished ranks of the Hall of Fame. Historical entrants included Wayne D. Wright, Arthur “Bull” Hancock, Jr., William Woodward, Sr., and Tom Ochiltree.
Rachel Alexandra was Horse of the Year in 2009 after a undefeated year that included wins against the boys in the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward. Zenyatta was voted Horse of the Year in the following year and amassed 19 wins from 20 lifetime starts, including a Breeders' Cup Classic win against males and a close second to Blame the following year in her career finale.
Asmussen is a two-time Eclipse Award winner with more than 7,000 wins and over 190 graded stakes victories. Ramon Dominguez won just shy of 5,000 races in his Eclipse Award-winning career and holds 20 meet titles.
Wright was leading rider in 1934 and 1936, and won each of the three Triple Crown races. Hancock carried on the legacy of Claiborne Farm as breeder of 112 stakes winners while becoming the first working horseman to be elected to the Jockey Club. Woodward bred 101 stakes winners, including seven champion horses. Tom Ochiltree was a horse who won the Preakness, Saratoga Cup, Monmouth Cup, and Westchester Cup between 1875 and 1877.
Highlights from the careers of each horse and human were played before their induction, and the audience frequently broke into applause after some of the most memorable stretch runs from both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. The look back at their legacies bringing tears to the eyes of many seated in the crowd.
Retired New York Racing Association racecaller Tom Durkin emceed the ceremony, which was held before a limited audience as Saratoga Race Course opened its gates with a celebration for fans, complete with miniature horses dressed as Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.
Here are a few of the highlights from inductees' acceptance speeches:
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