Three-time champion Royal Delta is among the five equine and nine overall finalists that make up the National Museum of Racing’s 2019 Hall of Fame ballot as selected by the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.
Royal Delta, in her first year of eligibility, joins fellow champions Blind Luck, Gio Ponti, Havre de Grace and Rags To Riches on the ballot along with 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 March 1. The results of the voting on the contemporary candidates will be announced 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., 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 from a total of 93 initial candidates suggested by journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants and 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.
Royal Delta won 12 of 22 starts and $4,811,126 during her career, including back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (Distaff) in 2011 and 2012. She won eight other graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Alabama, Delaware Handicap, Personal Ensign Handicap and Beldame Invitational. Royal Delta earned Eclipse Awards as champion 3-year-old filly (2011) and champion older female (2012 and 2013).
Rags To Riches appears on the ballot for the first time. The Eclipse Award winner as champion 3-year-old filly in 2007, Rags To Riches won four Grade 1s in succession in the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks at Santa Anita Park, Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. She defeated eventual Horse of the Year Curlin and became the first female winner of the Belmont in 102 years.
Gio Ponti, also a three-time Eclipse Award winner, is back on the ballot again. He won 12 of 29 starts and earned $6,169,800 for his fellow Hall of Fame nominated trainer Christophe Clement. He won 10 graded stakes, including seven Grade 1s, and finished second in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic to first-ballot Hall of Famer Zenyatta.
Havre de Grace won Horse of the Year and champion older female honors in 2011 after a season highlighted by victories in the Apple Blossom, Woodward (over males) and Beldame. She won nine of 16 starts and earned $2,586,175.
Blind Luck, Eclipse Award winner as champion 3-year-old filly in 2010, also appears again in 2019. She won 12 of 22 starts, including 10 graded stakes and six Grade 1 events, and earned $3,279,520.
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 as 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. He also trained 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.