In a year with only one modern entrant into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, much of the induction ceremony focused on some of the sport's oldest and greatest names.
At the program held Aug. 3 at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., racing's most familiar historical names dominated the card as the Hall took on 12 Pillars of the Turf, two historic review committee inductees, and a lone modern entrant in filly Heavenly Prize.
This year's Pillars of the Turf included Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, August Belmont I, Cot Campbell, Penny Chenery, John W. Galbreath, Arthur B. Hancock, Sr., Hal Price Headley, John Morrissey, Dr. Charles Strub, William Collins Whitney, Harry Payne Whitney, and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney.
Many Pillars of the Turf found success as owner/breeders as well as racetrack founders/executives, or in some cases both. Several are credited as having built farm and racing stable empires which have continued today with future generations. The inductions of Arthur B. Hancock, Sr. and Hal Price Headley were observed by descendants who each took up nearly a section of seats in the pavilion, many of whom remain active in the business.
Arthur Hancock III accepted the Hall of Fame plaque on behalf of the Hancock family and took a moment to salute his grandfather's perseverance in the early years of what would become Claiborne Farm. Hancock married Nancy Tucker Clay in 1908 and two years later, Clay inherited 1,300 acres in Kentucky. The Hancocks were left to juggle operations both at their existing propertly at Ellerslie Farm in Virginia and to overhaul the infrastructure in Kentucky.
“Granddaddy didn't have it easy,” said Hancock III. “In 1910 and 1911, they outlawed racing in New York, which was the center of everything. Good mares he had whose yearlings he had brought up here to sell, they became plow horses. He said as long as he could feed them, he was going to hang in there and persevere. About two years after that, the English denied registration privileges to most of our real good Thoroughbreds over here. He still said he was going to persevere, and he did.”
Hancock would go on to be the country's leading breeder by wins eight times, president of the Thoroughbred Horse Association, and importer of a number of foreign stallions, including sires of two Triple Crown winners. His family has since carried on via Claiborne and Stone Farms.
John Phillips, grandson of Galbreath and owner of Darby Dan Farm, said his grandfather would have been “tickled” at the honor of a Hall of Fame induction.
“That might be a bit of an informal word but if you knew his quick smile and easy laugh, it's spot on,” said Phillips. “My grandfather was very passionate about all things in life. He loved people, he loved horses, he loved his farm and he loved to compete.”
Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Penny Chenery, was on hand to accept the plaque on behalf of her mother. Chenery is the first woman to be inducted as a Pillar of the Turf, and the fourth woman to make it into the Hall overall. (Two of the others come from the steeplechase world.)
Cot Campbell was the twelfth and final of the Pillars of the Turf to be honored on stage – and the only one accepting his own plaque.
“I want to point out that as of yesterday there were 12 Pillars of the Turf. Today there are 12 more Pillars of the Turf, 24 in all. The only one who is alive is me,” said Campbell. “Now, you may not be very interested in that, but I am. I'm the only one that can change the statistic, and I don't intend to do it.”
Campbell, who pioneered the syndicate model with his Dogwood Stables, received a standing ovation upon approaching the mic. He estimates 1,200 people got into Thoroughbred ownership via Dogwood.
“If I have brought something to the great industry and sport of Thoroughbred racing, then good for me but I certainly have been recognized for it and repaid in many ways,” he said. “Early on some very astute racing people advised me to abandon the partnership idea. But my blood was up and I pushed on, and you see before you today the poster boy of the slogan ‘Energy and enthusiasm can overcome stupidity and bad judgment.'”
Preakness, the namesake of the second jewel of the Triple Crown, was remembered for his dominance in the 1870s for owner Milton Sanford. Trainer Shug McGaughey was on hand to look back on the career of Heavenly Prize, who won eight Grade 1s and an Eclipse Award for the Phipps Stable.
“When I look back on the career of Heavenly Prize, I think of the day she broke her maiden,” said McGaughey. “It was September 15, 1993 at Belmont Park. A race for 2-year-old maiden fillies was split into two divisions. Heavenly Prize captured one of them and a horse named Inside Information won the other division. We were obviously very encouraged by their respective performances but I don't think anyone at that time could have predicted they'd end up in the racing Hall of Fame.”
The Museum also announced the start of a overhaul to the Hall of Fame, which will modernize that section of the building and make it into a multimedia experience. John Hendrickson estimated the project, which will create a digital presentation for each inductee, will cost approximately $20 million and will be in place by 2020.
“I believe it will be one of the most important thing that this industry has done in this sport in our lifetimes,” said Hendrickson, who announced he and wife Marylou Whitney are committing $1 million to the project.
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