Gio Ponti, Royal Delta, Casse And Clement Among Nine Hall Of Fame Finalists

by | 02.14.2019 | 11:25am
Mark Casse

Five racehorses, three trainers and one jockey account for the nine finalists that will comprise the National Museum of Racing's 2019 Hall of Fame ballot, as chosen by the Museum's Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The finalists are: racehorses Blind Luck, Gio Ponti, Havre de Grace, Rags to Riches and Royal Delta (first year of eligibility); trainers Mark Casse, Christophe Clement and David Whiteley; and jockey Craig Perret.

Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. All candidates that receive majority approval (50.1 percent or higher) of the voting panel will be elected to the Hall of Fame. The former rule capping the number of inductees at four was eliminated by the Museum's Executive Committee in 2018. All the finalists were required to receive support from two-thirds of the Nominating Committee to qualify for the ballot.

Hall of Fame ballots will be mailed to the voting panel on March 1. The results of the voting on the contemporary candidates will be announced on Monday, April 22. That announcement will also include this year's selections by the Museum's Historic Review and Pillars of the Turf committees. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Friday, Aug. 2 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony will be open to the public and is free to attend.

The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame's Nominating Committee from a total of 93 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must be licensed for 25 years, while jockeys must be licensed for 20 years. Thoroughbreds are required to be retired for five calendar years before becoming eligible. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. The 20- and 25-year requirements for jockeys and trainers, respectively, may be waived, at the discretion of the Museum's Executive Committee. Candidates not active within the past 25 years are eligible through the Historic Review process.

A chestnut filly bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, Blind Luck (Pollards Vision—Lucky One, by Best of Luck) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2010. A multiple Grade 1 winner at ages 2 and 3, Blind Luck was also a Grade 1 winner at 4. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by Hollendorfer in partnership with Mark DeDomenico LLC, John Carver and Peter Abruzzo, Blind Luck posted a career record of 12-7-2 from 22 starts and earnings of $3,279,520. She won a total of 10 graded stakes in her career, including six Grade 1s: the Kentucky Oaks, Oak Leaf Stakes, Hollywood Starlet Stakes, Las Virgenes Stakes, Alabama Stakes and Vanity Handicap. Throughout her career, Blind Luck defeated the likes of Havre de Grace (three times), Life At Ten, Unrivaled Belle, Evening Jewel, Devil May Care and Switch.

A bay colt bred in Kentucky by Kilboy Estate, Inc., Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat—Chipeta Springs, by Alydar) won the Eclipse Award for Champion Turf Male in 2009 and 2010 and the Eclipse for Champion Older Male in 2009. Racing from 2007 through 2011, Gio Ponti posted a career record of 12-10-1 from 29 starts and earned $6,169,800. Owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti won 10 graded stakes, including seven Grade 1s. His Grade 1 wins included consecutive editions of both the Man o' War Stakes in 2009 and 2010 and the Shadwell Turf Mile in 2010 and 2011.  Gio Ponti also finished second in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic to Hall of Famer Zenyatta and second in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Mile to Hall of Famer Goldikova.

A bay filly bred in Kentucky by Nancy S. Dillman, Havre de Grace (Saint Liam—Easter Brunette, by Carson City) won the Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and Champion Older Mare in 2011. Trained by Anthony Dutrow at ages 2 and 3 and by Larry Jones thereafter, Havre de Grace was campaigned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms throughout her career. After finishing second to champion Blind Luck in thrilling editions of the Delaware Oaks and Alabama in 2010, Havre de Grace earned her first graded stakes victory later that year in the Cotillion (G2). In her 2011 Horse of the Year campaign, she topped Blind Luck in the Azeri (G2) and went on to win Grade 1s in the Apple Blossom, Woodward (defeating males, including Flat Out) and Beldame (defeating champion Royal Delta). Havre de Grace made one start as a 5-year-old in 2012, winning the listed New Orleans Ladies' Stakes before being retired with a career record of 9-4-2 from 16 starts and earnings of $2,586,175.

A chestnut filly bred in Kentucky by Skara Glen Stables, Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy—Better Than Honour, by Deputy Minister) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2007, a campaign highlighted by a historic victory in the Belmont Stakes. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Michael B. Tabor and Derrick Smith, Rags to Riches broke her maiden in her second career start on Jan. 7, 2007 at Santa Anita. That six-length victory was the beginning of a five-race win streak. The next four wins were all Grade 1s: the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks (by 5½ lengths) in California; the Kentucky Oaks (by 4¼ lengths); and the Belmont Stakes in New York. In the Belmont, Rags to Riches defeated two-time Horse of the Year Curlin by a head to become the first filly in 102 years (Tanya, 1905) to win the third jewel of the Triple Crown. Rags to Riches remains one of only three fillies to win the 1½-mile Belmont. She finished second in her next race, the Grade 1 Gazelle, and a right front leg injury was discovered after the race. A 4-year-old campaign was being planned for Rags to Riches, but she re-injured her right front pastern and was retired with a record of 5-1-0 from seven starts and earnings of $1,342,528.   

Bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments N.V., Inc., Royal Delta (Empire Maker—Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2011 and the Eclipse Awards for Champion Older Mare in 2012 and 2013. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for Besilu Stables, Royal Delta broke her maiden in her only start as a 2-year-old on Oct. 30, 2010 at Belmont Park. As a 3-year-old in 2011, Royal Delta won the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Churchill Downs, as well as the Alabama Stakes and Black-Eyed Susan. As a 4-year-old in 2012, Royal Delta repeated in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, defeating My Miss Aurelia by 1½ lengths at Santa Anita. She won three additional graded stakes that year, including the Grade 1 Beldame. As a 5-year-old in 2013, Royal Delta repeated in the both the Beldame and Delaware Handicap (a Grade 1 in 2013). She also earned a 4½-length victory in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. Royal Delta was retired at the end of the year with a record of 12-5-1 from 22 starts and earnings of $4,811,126. Ten of her wins were in graded events, including six Grade 1s.

Perret, 68, won 4,415 races with purse earnings of more than $113 million in a career that spanned from 1967 through 2005. The Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey in 1990 and the leading apprentice by earnings in 1967 (prior to the Eclipse Awards), Perret won the Belmont Stakes in 1987 with Bet Twice by 14 lengths, denying Alysheba the Triple Crown. Three years later, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled. The regular rider of Hall of Famers Housebuster and Safely Kept, Perret won four Breeders' Cup races and totaled 208 graded stakes wins.

A native of New Orleans, Perret won two riding titles at both Arlington and Monmouth. In 1988, he was voted the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award winner. Grade 1 wins for Perret include the Acorn, American Derby, Ashland, Carter Handicap (2), Coaching Club American Oaks, Florida Derby, Haskell (4), Hopeful, Jerome Handicap, Laurel Futurity, Monmouth Oaks, Oaklawn Handicap, Pimlico Special, Sword Dancer, Test, Travers (2), Wood Memorial and Vosburgh, among others.  

Casse, 58, has won 2,645 races to date with purse earnings of more than $157 million (eighth all time) in a career that began in 1979. A 2016 Canadian Racing Hall of Fame inductee, Casse has won the Sovereign Award for Outstanding Trainer in Canada a record 10 times. He has won five Breeders' Cup races and has trained four Eclipse Award winners: Shamrock Rose, World Approval, Tepin and Classic Empire.

Along with his perennial success in Canada, Casse, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., has won four training titles at Turfway Park, two at Keeneland and one at Churchill Downs. He has won seven races in the Canadian Triple Crown series — including the Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales in 2018 with Wonder Gadot — and a total of 148 graded stakes. Casse has trained 15 horses that have earned $1 million or more. Other Grade 1 winners trained by Casse include Catch a Glimpse, Pool Play, Noble Bird, Spring in the Air, Exciting Story, La Coronel and Victory to Victory, among others.

Clement, 53, has won 1,906 races to date with purse earnings of more than $127 million (12th all time) in a career that began in 1991. Clement trained three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, winner of four straight Grade 1s on the turf in 2009, as well as 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, who won consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2014 and 2015. Clement has won 237 graded stakes, including multiple editions of the Man o' War, Shadwell Turf Mile, Manhattan Handicap, Diana, Sword Dancer, Beverly D. and Del Mar Oaks, among others.

A native of Paris, France, Clement began his career in the United States by winning with the first horse he saddled, Spectaculaire, on Oct. 20, 1991 at Belmont. He has since trained 18 horses that have earned $1 million or more. Other Grade 1 winners trained by Clement include Relaxed Gesture, Forbidden Apple, Voodoo Dancer, Rutherienne, Winchester, Discreet Marq and Mauralanka, among others.

Whiteley, who died in 2017 at the age of 73, won 678 races and had purse earnings of more than $11 million in a career that spanned from 1970 through 1995. He trained Eclipse Award winners Waya, Revidere and Just a Game. Whiteley won the Belmont Stakes in 1979 with Coastal, thwarting the Triple Crown hopes of Spectacular Bid.

A native of Easton, Md., Whiteley won of 32.7 percent of his career starts (678 for 2,068), including 45 graded stakes. His Grade 1 winners included Highland Blade, French Colonial, Instrument Landing May Day Eighty, Northernette and Tiller.

Chaired by Edward L. Bowen, the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee is comprised of Bowen, Steven Crist, Tom Durkin, Bob Ehalt, Tracy Gantz, Teresa Genaro, Jane Goldstein, Steve Haskin, Jay Hovdey, Tom Law, Neil Milbert, Jay Privman, John Sparkman, Michael Veitch, John von Stade and Charlotte Weber.

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