In its 2010 election process the National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame used a new standard. The Hall’s voting panel of 182 members faced a collective ballot to choose four new contemporary members, regardless of category. In the past, ballots have been cast in a number of categories, such as trainers, jockeys, and past racing Thoroughbreds.
In recent years, the Historic Review Committee and the Steeplechase Committee came into being to lend recognition to past performers who by accomplishment had earned consideration for election to the Hall of Fame.
Contemporary inductions this year include Thoroughbreds Azeri, Best Pal (deceased), and Point Given, and jockey Randy Romero.
Election and Induction Rules of Hall of Fame
In 2010 two new members were voted to the NMR Hall of Fame through its Historic Review Committee. Given the nod of honor were trainer M.E. “Buster” Millerick and a jockey who often rode Millerick’s Thoroughbred trainees, Don Pierce.
Millerick had among his many trainees Native Diver, who won 34 stakes. Millerick stayed active as a trainer until his death in 1986. California Derby winner George Lewis, 1970, Californian Stakes victor Fleet Nasrullah, 1960, and 1955’s Countess Fleet, who won the Vanity and Milady Handicaps, are some of Millerick’s other noted schoolees.
Pierce won the prestigious Santa Anita Derby four times and set a world-record run with Triple Bend in the 1972 Los Angeles Handicap, which Pierce won five straight years. The jockey had 28,740 mounts and won 3,546 contests, including 351 stakes.
Only individual Thoroughbreds, jockeys, and trainers who have been retired from racing for more than 25 years are considered for Historic Review Committee Hall of Fame induction.
Contemporary Thoroughbreds eligible for the Hall of Fame must have been retired from the track for five calendar years from their last racing year to their first year of nomination, as all Thoroughbreds have the same birth date for stud book and racing records.
Active jockeys must have 20 years of licensed performance under their belts, while trainers are required to have 25 years of licensed conditioning on their resume before they may be considered for Hall of Fame nomination.
The 14-member NMR Hall of Fame committee this year listed 76 candidates in contemporary categories and chose ten finalists to be voted down to a final selection of four new members who received the most votes from the 182 Thoroughbred industry panelists of public figures, professionals, and writers who span the United States and Canada.
New Hall of Fame Members of the Four-Footed Kind
Horse of the Year from 2002 Azeri’s election to the NMR Hall of Fame was assured by her outstanding track career — 17 wins from 24 starts — but gaining entrance on her first ballot of eligibility was just another sterling accomplishment for the daughter of Jade Hunter–Zodiac Miss (AUS), by Ahonoora.
Mike Smith, who is already a member of the Hall of Fame, regularly rode Azeri, who retired as the leading female Thoroughbred in track earnings at $4,079,820. Presently, Smith rides the career unbeaten six-year-old mare Zenyatta, who has taken over as leading female earner.
The other two Thoroughbred inductees, Best Pal, winner of $5,668,245 in track purses and six grade one races in 18 of 47 career starts, and 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given, who retired with nine victories from 13 career posts, including six grade ones, and a bankroll of $3,968,500, had been nominated in previous years.
Best Pal, a gelding sired by Habitony and out of Ubetshedid, by King Pellinore, raced for seven years from the Golden Eagle Farm for breeder/owners John and Betty Mabee. Deceased since 1996 at the age of eight, Best Pal is still the all-time leading California-bred in earnings.
Point Given, a favorite of many to win the coveted American Triple Crown in 2001, came up short of that goal when he was beaten in the Kentucky Derby. But the chestnut son of Thunder Gulch–Turko’s Turn, by Turkoman triumphed in the Preakness Stakes, the Triple’s second leg, and the Belmont Stakes, the third contest, in which he blew to the finish by a whopping 12-1/4 lengths, that race’s largest margin of victory since the great Secretariat’s mind-bending 31 length romp.
Point Given also beat his rivals to the wire in the 2001 Haskell Invitational Handicap and the Travers Stakes.
Romero Joins Jockey Hall of Famers
Romero triumphed in 122 graded stakes, won a total of 4,294 races, and had career earnings of over $75.2 million. Romero, 52, called it quits in 1999 after completing 26 years in Thoroughbred racing.
Romero rode the astounding undefeated Personal Ensign to the winner’s circle from the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Churchill Down, Louisville, Kentucky. A Louisiana native, the former jockey calls New Orleans home.
Inductions into the NMR Hall of Fame are held in ceremonies at Saratoga Springs, New York.
Resources: The Original 2006 Thoroughbred Times Racing Almanac, 2005, by Thoroughbred Times Books; Thoroughbred Times magazine, August 7, 2010; Thoroughbred Times magazine, June 5, 2010