King of the Hall

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The wait is over for King Leatherbury and his legion of supporters. Leatherbury, a trainer whose career spans six decades and the winner of more than 6,400 races, is among the group of four elected to the National Musuem of Racing’s Hall of Fame for 2015.

The late Chris Antley, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby with 3,480 career victories, champion Xtra Heat and seven-time Grade 1 winner and $5,268,706-earner Lava Man were also elected.

The 2015 class will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at 10:30 a.m. ET Friday, Aug. 7 at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs.

The 82-year-old Leatherbury ranks fourth on the all-time list of leading trainers by victories at 6,454. He’s won 52 training titles in Maryland, four in Delaware and led all trainers in North America by wins twice in the late 1970s.

Perhaps best known for his thousands of victories primarily in the claiming ranks, Leatherbury is no strangers to stakes success. He won the Grade 1 Hempstead Handicap in 1987 at Belmont Park with Catatonic and the Grade 1 Philip H. Iselin Handicap in 1994 at Monmouth Park with Taking Risks. He is also the breeder, owner and trainer of the legendary Ben’s Cat, a 22-time stakes winner and earner of $2,336,005.

Despite all that success Leatherbury was frequently passed over by Hall of Fame voters and never pegged as a finalist until this year. The snubs always brought calls for Leatherbury to be considered, including this editorial in 2014 from TIHR’s Joe Clancy in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.

Antley’s career spanned from 1983 until his death at the age of 34 in 2000. He was North America’s leading rider with 469 wins in 1985 and rode Strike the Gold (1991) and Charismatic (1999) to victories in the Kentucky Derby. He also won the Preakness aboard eventual Horse of the Year Charismatic

Lava Man’s induction will cap a true rags-to-riches career. Claimed by STD Racing Stable and Jason Wood and trainer Doug O’Neill for $50,000 as a 3-year-old, Lava Man won more Grade 1 stakes than another other Californai-bred and ended his career with 17 victories in 47 starts. He ranks third behind Tiznow, Best Pal and California Chrome by career earnings for California-breds.

Xtra Heat was champion 3-year-old filly in 2001 after winning nine of 13 starts and racking up $1,012,040 in earnings. She won the lone Grade 1 of her career that year, taking the Prioress Stakes at Belmont, and also finished second to Squirtle Squirt in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

The daughter of Dixieland Heat retired with 26 victories in 35 starts – 25 of the wins in stakes – and earnings of $2,389,635.

The contemporary electees were chosen from a nationwide voting panel comprised of 180 racing writers, broadcasters, industry officials and historians from a group of 10 finalists selected by the Hall of Fame’s Nominating Committee. The top four vote-getters among the finalists are elected.

Results of the Hall of Fame’s Historic Review and Pillars of the Turf committees will be announced in May.