Heavyweights for Hall of Fame

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The National Museum of Racing rolled out the 2016 Hall of Fame induction class earlier this week – unfortunately the same day official word came out that the 2018 Breeders’ Cup would be at Churchill Downs – and talk about a stellar group.

Start with the horses. It was difficult to say the names of the two 2016 inductees back in 2009 and 2010 without mentioning the other.

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

Collectively they won 32 races in 39 starts and more than $10.8 million. How about Grade 1 victories – count ’em, there were 13 for Zenyatta (including a stretch of nine straight that included a Breeders’ Cup Classic) and five for Rachel Alexandra, hers all in succession with a Preakness, Haskell and Woodward against males mixed in for good measure.

Sure they never raced, much to the chagrin of the folks at Oaklawn Park who were sporting enough to put up a big purse for the 2010 Apple Blossom. They’ll forever be linked, as not only two of the best fillies and mares in recent history but among the best of all time regardless of gender.

To help put some things in perspective we dug into the archives of The Saratoga Special, This Is Horse Racing and Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred for stories on this year’s Hall of Fame inductees.

First up is Sean’s recap of Rachel Alexandra’s roof-raising victory in the 2009 Woodward at Saratoga. Calvin Borel knew there was more in Rachel Alexandra, she just needed to be thoroughly tested. She got tested in the Woodward and showed that, indeed, there was more.

She did it. Rachel Alexandra wins Woodward

What was it like to ride a powerhouse mare like Zenyatta? Mike Smith knew and so did the late Steve Willard. Sean spoke to the veteran exercise rider before the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which Zenyatta won over Gio Ponti, to find out.

Breeders’ Cup: Riding Zenyatta


That covers the horses. What about the humans?

The two two-legged inductees are among the kings in their respective fields, one still active and the other hugely respected for his dignity, class and ability.

Ramon Dominguez, winner of three Eclipse Awards as outstanding jockey and 4,985 races, got special consideration for election this year. Voters responded, undoubtedly enthusiastically, and gave Ramon a spot among the other best men and women to sit on a horse.

Sean wrote a heartfelt piece in his Cup of Coffee column that appears daily in The Special, which we also ran on his Inside Rail Blog.

Cup of Coffee: Head Game

Earlier this year Tom caught up with Ramon to get his reaction to being given special consideration for election.

Weekend Interview: Ramon Dominguez


Steve Asmussen, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer, goes in for his accomplishments as a trainer and it’s a long list.

He took over Rachel Alexandra’s training after she won the Kentucky Oaks and also conditioned two-time Horse of the Year and Preakness and Dubai World Cup winner Curlin. The winner of more than 7,286 races through the day he was announced as a Hall of Famer, Asmussen will be represented in this year’s Kentucky Derby by Louisiana Derby winner Gun Runner and Arkansas Derby winner Creator.

Joe watched the 2012 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing, a Grade 1 stakes Asmussen won with My Miss Aurelia in an upset of odds-on favorite Questing. Check out the recap from the trainer’s, and writer’s, point of view.

Of The People: Asmussen cheers home Aurelia