Champions Blind Luck, Gio Ponti, Havre de Grace, and Heavenly Prize are among the 10 finalists selected to the National Museum of Racing's 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, it was announced Feb. 22.
The finalists were chosen by the Museum's Hall of Fame nominating committee. Jockeys Robby Albarado, Corey Nakatani, and Craig Perret and trainers Mark Casse, John Shirreffs, and David Whiteley are also up for induction.
In a change from recent years, all Hall of Fame candidates that receive majority approval (50.1 percent or higher) of the voting panel will be elected to the Hall of Fame. The results of the voting on the contemporary candidates will be announced on April 16 with the induction ceremony to be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Aug. 3 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 90 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must have been licensed for 25 years, while jockeys must have been licensed for 20 years. Thoroughbreds are required to be retired for five calendar years before becoming eligible.
Bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, Blind Luck earned the 2010 Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly for a campaign that included victories in the Kentucky Oaks and BetFair TVG Alabama Stakes. A Grade 1 winner at ages 2, 3, and 4, the daughter of Pollard's Vision won a total of 10 graded stakes in her career including six top-level triumphs for trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer. She had a memorable rivalry with fellow Hall of Fame finalist Havre de Grace, besting that one three times—a nose victory in the 2010 Delaware Oaks, a neck triumph in the Alabama, and another nostril win in the 2011 Delaware Handicap. Blind Luck retired with 12 wins from 22 starts and $3,279,520 in earnings.
Havre de Grace was crowned Horse of the Year for 2011, following in the footsteps of Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Zenyatta (2010) to become the third straight female runner to earn the honor. Owned by Rick Porter, the daughter of Saint Liam won six graded stakes and three Grade 1 races with all of her top-level victories coming during her championship season when she was trained by Larry Jones after winning a Grade 2 and placing twice in Grade 1 company for trainer Anthony Dutrow the previous year. In addition to wins in the 2011 Apple Blossom Handicap and Beldame Invitational Stakes, Havre de Grace defeated males in the Woodward Stakes and went on to run fourth in that year's Breeders' Cup Classic. She retired with nine wins from 16 starts and was sold to Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm for $10 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November sale, a record price for a broodmare prospect.
Castleton Lyons' homebred Gio Ponti was a model of enduring quality over his career for trainer Christophe Clement, winning graded stakes at ages 3, 4, 5, and 6 while earning three Eclipse Awards. The son of Tale of the Cat was named champion turf male and champion older male in 2009 after winning four straight Grade 1 races and finishing second to Zenyatta in that year's Breeders' Cup Classic. Gio Ponti repeated as champion turf male in 2010, earning wins in the Man o' War Stakes and Shadwell Turf Mile before running second to champion Goldikova in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile, and would capture the Shadwell Turf Mile again in 2011—defeating a field that included future two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
Ogden Phipps' homebred Heavenly Prize won the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly in 1994 and earned eight grade 1 victories over the course of her 18-race career. Trained by Shug McGaughey, the daughter of Seeking the Gold won the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, Gazelle Handicap, and Beldame Stakes during her championship campaign and captured four straight Grade 1 tests during her 4-year-old season.
Albarado has won 5,115 races to date with purse earnings of more than $214 million in a career that began in 1990. He ranks 13th all-time in career earnings and has won 208 graded stakes, including three Breeders' Cup races. He was the regular rider of two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame member Curlin, as well as Horse of the Year Mineshaft.
Nakatani has won 3,893 races to date with purse earnings of more than $233 million in a career that began in 1988. He ranks 12th all-time in career earnings and has won 340 graded stakes. Nakatani has won 10 Breeders' Cup races, including four editions of the Sprint.
Perret 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, denying Alysheba the Triple Crown. Three years later, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled. Perret won four Breeders' Cup races and totaled 208 graded stakes wins.
Casse has won 2,429 races to date with purse earnings of more than $142 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 nine times and has won four Breeders' Cup races and currently trains reigning champion turf male World Approval. Casse also trained Eclipse Award winners Tepin and Classic Empire.
Shirreffs became a licensed trainer in 1978 and to date has won 470 races with purse earnings of more than $45 million. He trained 2010 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame member Zenyatta, winner in 19 of her 20 career starts, and won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo at odds of 50-1.
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 and won the Belmont Stakes in 1979 with Coastal, thwarting the Triple Crown hopes of Spectacular Bid.