National Museum of Racing announces 2023 Hall of Fame finalists
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Nine racehorses, six trainers, and one jockey account for the 16 finalists that will comprise the National Museum of Racing’s 2023 Hall of Fame ballot, as chosen by the Museum’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The finalists are racehorses Arrogate, Blind Luck, California Chrome, Game On Dude, Havre de Grace, Kona Gold, Lady Eli, Rags to Riches, and Songbird; trainers Christophe Clement, Kiaran McLaughlin, Graham Motion, Doug O’Neill, John Sadler, and John Shirreffs; and jockey Corey Nakatani.
Hall of Fame voters may select as many or as few candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. All candidates that receive 50 percent plus one vote (majority approval) from the voting panel will be elected to the Hall of Fame. All of the finalists were required to receive support from two-thirds of the 15-member Nominating Committee to qualify for the ballot.
Ballots will be mailed to the Hall of Fame voting panel this week. The results of the voting on the contemporary candidates will be announced on Tuesday, April 25. 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 take place on Friday, Aug. 4, at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony is open to the public and free to attend.
To be eligible for the Hall of Fame, 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. 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.
A gray/roan colt bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song—Bubbler, by Distorted Humor) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Male in 2016 and holds the North American record for highest career earnings with $17,422,600. A winner of four Grade/Group 1 races, Arrogate was trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for Juddmonte. Unraced as a 2-year-old, he broke his maiden in his second career start in 2016 to begin a seven-race win streak. Arrogate’s first stakes victory was a record-setting performance in the Travers. He won the Midsummer Derby by 13½ lengths and covered the 1¼ miles in 1:59.36, the only time in Saratoga history a horse has gone 10 furlongs on the dirt in less than two minutes. Following the Travers, Arrogate defeated California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita to wrap up the Eclipse Award. Returning as a 4-year-old, Arrogate set a Gulfstream Park dirt record of 1:46.83 in the 1⅛-mile Pegasus World Cup. He then defeated Gun Runner by 2¼ lengths in the Dubai World Cup to become the all-time earnings leader. Arrogate was later retired with a record of 7-1-1 from 11 starts. This is his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.
A chestnut filly bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, Blind Luck (Pollard’s Vision—Lucky One, by Best of Luck) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2010. A multiple Grade 1 winner at ages 2 and 3, Blind Luck was also a Grade 1 winner at 4. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by Hollendorfer in partnership with Mark DeDomenico LLC, John Carver, and Peter Abruzzo, Blind Luck posted a career record of 12-7-2 from 22 starts and earnings of $3,279,520 from 2009 through 2011. She won a total of 10 graded stakes in her career, including six Grade 1s: the Kentucky Oaks, Oak Leaf, Hollywood Starlet, Las Virgenes, Alabama, and Vanity Handicap. Throughout her career, Blind Luck defeated the likes of Havre de Grace (three times), Life At Ten, Unrivaled Belle, Evening Jewel, Devil May Care, and Switch.
A chestnut colt bred in California by owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit—Love the Chase, by Not For Love), won Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year in 2014 and 2016, as well as Champion 3-Year-Old Male in 2014 and Champion Older Male in 2016. Trained by Art Sherman for Martin and Coburn (the ownership later included Taylor Made Farm), California Chrome won a total of 10 graded/group stakes. He won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Hollywood Derby in his first Horse of the Year campaign in 2014. Injuries limited California Chrome to two starts in 2015, but he returned to win seven of eight starts in 2016, including the Dubai World Cup, Pacific Classic, Awesome Again, and San Pasqual. In 2016, he surpassed Hall of Famer Curlin for the North American earnings record, which was subsequently broken by Arrogate. Overall, California Chrome won at seven different tracks and compiled a record of 16-4-1 from 27 starts with earnings of $14,752,650. This is his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.
A dark bay gelding bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, Game On Dude (Awesome Again—Worldly Pleasure, by Devil His Due) won 14 graded stakes, including eight Grade 1s. Racing from 2010 through 2014, he compiled a record of 16-7-1 from 34 starts and earnings of $6,498,893. Owned by Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC, and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude was trained by Baffert. He is the only horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap three times (2011, 2013, 2014), setting a stakes record in the 2014 edition by covering 1¼ miles in 1:58.17. Game On Dude also won the Hollywood Gold Cup and San Antonio Stakes twice each, as well as single editions of the Pacific Classic, Californian, Charles Town Classic, Lone Star Derby, and Native Diver. He also won the Grade 1 Goodwood in 2011 and won the same race when it was renamed the Awesome Again in 2012. In 2013, Game On Dude swept the three signature Grade 1 races for older horses in California — the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic — becoming only the second horse to win those three events in a single year, joining Hall of Famer Lava Man.
A bay filly bred in Kentucky by Nancy S. Dillman, Havre de Grace (Saint Liam—Easter Brunette, by Carson City) won the Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and Champion Older Female in 2011. Trained by Anthony Dutrow at ages 2 and 3 and by Larry Jones thereafter, Havre de Grace was campaigned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms throughout her career. After finishing second to champion Blind Luck in thrilling editions of the Delaware Oaks and Alabama Stakes in 2010, Havre de Grace earned her first graded stakes victory later that year in the Cotillion. In her 2011 Horse of the Year campaign, she beat Blind Luck in the Azeri and went on to win Grade 1s in the Apple Blossom, Woodward (defeating males, including Flat Out), and Beldame (defeating Hall of Famer Royal Delta). Havre de Grace made one start as a 5-year-old in 2012, winning the listed New Orleans Ladies’ Stakes before being retired with a career record of 9-4-2 from 16 starts and earnings of $2,586,175.
A bay gelding bred in Kentucky by Carlos Perez, Kona Gold (Java Gold—Double Sunrise, by Slew o’ Gold) won the Eclipse Award for Champion Sprinter in 2000. That year, he set a six-furlong record at Churchill Downs in his Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory. Campaigned by Bruce Headley (who also served as his trainer), Irwin and Andrew Molasky, Michael Singh, et al, Kona Gold raced from 1998 through 2003 with a record of 14-7-2 from 30 starts and earnings of $2,293,384. He set a track record for 5½ furlongs at Santa Anita and won a total of 10 graded stakes. Kona Gold won multiple editions of the Bing Crosby Handicap, Potrero Grande Breeders’ Cup Handicap, and El Conejo Handicap. He registered Beyer Speed Figures of 110 or higher 17 times. On 10 occasions, his Beyer Figure was 115 or higher, including a career-best of 123. Kona Gold made five consecutive appearances in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
A dark bay filly bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby W. Clay, Lady Eli (Divine Park—Sacre Coeur, by Saint Ballado) won the 2017 Eclipse Award for Champion Turf Female. Trained by Chad Brown for Sheep Pond Partners, Lady Eli won her first six starts, including Grade 1 victories in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and 2015 Belmont Oaks. A battle with laminitis then kept her away from the races for more than a year. Upon her return in 2016, Lady Eli finished second in the Ballston Spa then won the Grade 1 Flower Bowl and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. She finished second in the Jenny Wiley in her 2017 debut then won the Gamely, Diana, and Ballston Spa in succession. Lady Eli was retired after finishing off the board in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Overall, she posted a record of 10-3-0 from 14 starts with earnings of $2,959,800. Lady Eli won a total of eight graded stakes, including at least one Grade 1 in each of her four years on the track. This is her first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.
A chestnut filly bred in Kentucky by Skara Glen Stables, Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy—Better Than Honour, by Deputy Minister) won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2007, a campaign highlighted by an historic victory in the Belmont Stakes. Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and Michael McCarthy for owners Michael B. Tabor and Derrick Smith, Rags to Riches broke her maiden in her second career start in January 2007, at Santa Anita. That six-length victory was the beginning of a five-race win streak. The next four wins were all Grade 1s: the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks (by 5½ lengths) in California, the Kentucky Oaks (by 4¼ lengths), and the Belmont in New York. In the Belmont, Rags to Riches defeated two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Curlin by a head to become the first filly in 102 years to win the third jewel of the Triple Crown. Rags to Riches remains one of only three fillies to win the Belmont. She finished second in her next race, the Grade 1 Gazelle, and a right front leg injury was discovered after the race. A 4-year-old campaign was being planned for Rags to Riches, but she re-injured her right front pastern and was retired with a record of 5-1-0 from seven starts and earnings of $1,342,528.
A dark bay filly bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli, Songbird (Medaglia d’Oro—Ivanavinalot, by West Acre) won Eclipse Awards for Champion 2-Year-Old Filly in 2015 and Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2016. Trained by Hollendorfer for Fox Hill Farms, Songbird won the first 11 races of her career. That stretch included Grade 1 victories in the Del Mar Debutante, Chandelier, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Santa Anita Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama, and Cotillion. After suffering her first defeat by a nose to Hall of Famer Beholder in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Songbird returned as a 4-year-old to win consecutive Grade 1s in the Ogden Phipps and Delaware Handicap. She was retired after finishing second in the Personal Ensign. Overall, Songbird posted a record of 13-2-0 from 15 starts and earned $4,692,000. Twelve of her 13 wins were graded stakes, including nine Grade 1s. She won at seven different tracks. This is her first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.
Clement, 57, has won 2,334 races (through Feb. 25) with purse earnings of more than $159 million (11th all time) in a career that began in 1991. He 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 also won consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2014 and 2015. Clement has won 262 graded stakes, including multiple editions of Grade 1 races the Beverly D., Del Mar Oaks, Diana, Manhattan, Man o’ War, Shadwell Turf Mile, and Sword Dancer, among others.
A native of Paris, France, Clement began his career in the United States by winning with the first horse he saddled, Spectaculaire, on Oct. 20, 1991, at Belmont. He has since trained 19 horses that have earned $1 million or more. Other Grade 1 winners trained by Clement include Discreet Marq, Forbidden Apple, Mauralanka, Relaxed Gesture, Rutherienne, Voodoo Dancer, Gufo, and Winchester, among others. Clement won his first Breeders’ Cup race in 2021 when Pizza Bianca captured the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
McLaughlin, 62, who is making his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, won 1,809 races with purse earnings of $130,031,267 (including international statistics) from 1995 through 2021. He ranks 20th all time in North American earnings. A winner of 179 graded/group stakes, McLaughlin won three Breeders’ Cup races: the 206 Classic (Invasor), 2007 Filly and Mare Turf (Lahudood), and the 2016 Dirt Mile (Tamarkuz). Along with Hall of Famer Invasor — who won Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male in 2006 — both Lahudood (2007 Champion Turf Female) and Questing (2012 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly) earned Eclipse Awards for McLaughlin.
A native of Lexington, Ky., McLaughlin’s Grade 1 victories included multiple editions of the Gazelle, Donn Handicap, Metropolitan Handicap, Acorn, and Ogden Phipps. He won the 2006 Belmont Stakes with Jazil. Other top horses trained by McLaughlin included millionaires Frosted, Cavorting, Alpha, It’s Tricky, Wedding Toast, and A Thread of Blue. A three-time leading trainer at Nad al Sheba in Dubai, McLaughlin also led the trainer standings at Saratoga in 2008. He ranked in the top 20 among North American trainers in earnings 12 times, including six times in the top 10. This is McLaughlin’s first time being a finalist for the Hall of Fame.
Motion, 58, has won 2,638 races to date with purse earnings of more than $143 million (16th all time) in a career that began in 1993. He won the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup with champion Animal Kingdom, trained two-time Eclipse Award winner Main Sequence, and has won four Breeders’ Cup races. His first Breeders’ Cup victory took place in the 2004 Turf with 10-time stakes winner Better Talk Now at odds of 28-1. Motion won the 2010 Filly and Mare Turf at odds of 46-1 with Shared Account, was victorious in the Turf for a second time four years later with Main Sequence, and won his fourth Breeders’ Cup race with Sharing in the 2019 Juvenile Fillies Turf at 14-1 odds.
A native of Cambridge, England, Motion has won 192 graded stakes, including multiple editions at the Grade 1 level of the Del Mark Oaks, Manhattan Handicap, Man o’ War, Matriarch, Sword Dancer, and United Nations. His Grade 1 wins also include the Alcibiades, Frank E. Kilroe Mile, Hollywood Derby, Hollywood Turf Cup, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, Rodeo Drive, Spinster, and Whitney, and Wood Memorial, among others. Motion has ranked in the top 15 among North American trainers in earnings 10 times. He has trained 11 horses that have earned $1 million or more, including Miss Temple City, who defeated males in both the Shadwell Turf Mile and Maker’s 46 Mile. Motion has won training titles at Keeneland and Pimlico and ranks fourth all time with 37 stakes wins at Keeneland.
O’Neill, 54, has won 2,762 races to date with purse earnings of more than $153 million (12th all time) in a career that began in 1988. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and a second Derby in 2016 with Nyquist. O’Neill has trained five Eclipse Award winners — I’ll Have Another, Maryfield, Nyquist, Stevie Wonderboy, and Thor’s Echo — and has won five Breeders’ Cup races.
A native of Dearborn, Mich., O’Neill won nine graded stakes with Hall of Fame member Lava Man, including three editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup, two runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap, and one each in the Pacific Classic and Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, all Grade 1 events. O’Neill has won five training titles at Del Mar, where in 2015 he became the first trainer to win five races on a card there. He has also won five training titles at Santa Anita, including a record 56-win meet in the winter of 2006-2007, and ranks third all time there with 971 wins. O’Neill is also fourth all time with 441 wins at Del Mar. He has trained 12 horses that have earned $1 million or more. O’Neill has multiple victories in Grade 1 races such as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Alcibiades, FrontRunner, Santa Anita Derby, and Triple Bend, among others. Other Grade/Group 1 wins include the Breeders’ Futurity, Del Mar Futurity, Del Mar Oaks, Donn Handicap, Florida Derby, Godolphin Mile, Hopeful, Japan Cup Dirt, Pennsylvania Derby, Secretariat, Stephen Foster, and Vosburgh. Overall, O’Neill has won 138 graded stakes.
Sadler, 66, who is appearing on the ballot for the first time, has won 2,728 races with purse earnings of more than $145 million (15th all time) in a career that began in 1978. He has won 188 graded stakes, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Eclipse Award winner Accelerate in 2018 and Horse of the Year Flightline in 2022. He also trained champion Stellar Wind. Sadler has conditioned 10 horses that have earned $ 1 million or more: Accelerate, Flightline, Stellar Wind, Switch, Higher Power, Catapult, Flagstaff, Hard Aces, Healthy Addiction, and Iotapa.
A native of Long Beach, Calif., Sadler, at the Grade 1 level, has won four editions of both the Pacific Classic and Clement L. Hirsch (he also won the Hirsch once when it was a Grade 2) and three runnings each of the Santa Anita Handicap and La Brea. Other Grade 1 races he has won multiple editions of include the Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Oaks, Vanity Handicap, and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Sadler ranks No. 2 all time at Del Mar in both wins (532) and stakes wins (85). At Santa Anita, he ranks second all time in wins (1,046) and seventh in stakes wins (82). Sadler won four training titles at Hollywood Park and has won two each at Del Mar and Santa Anita. This is Sadler’s first time being a finalist for the Hall of Fame.
Shirreffs, 77, has won 565 races, including 107 graded events, with purse earnings of $53.9 million. Although he had a few starters as early as 1978, Shirreffs did not start training full time until 1994. Best known as the conditioner of Hall of Famer Zenyatta, Shirreffs conditioned the four-time Eclipse Award winner to 19 consecutive victories, including 13 Grade 1s, from 2007 through 2010. Named Horse of the Year in 2010 and Champion Older Female each year from 2008 through 2010, Zenyatta’s Grade 1 wins included the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic in 2008 and the Classic the following year. In 2009, Shirreffs also won the Ladies’ Classic with Life Is Sweet, becoming the first trainer to win both Classics in the same year. Shirreffs won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo at odds of 50-1.
A native of Leavenworth, Kan., Shirreffs, at the Grade 1 level, has won five editions of both the Santa Margarita and Vanity handicaps; three runnings of both the Lady’s Secret and Santa Anita Derby; and two renewals of the American Oaks, Apple Blossom, Clement L. Hirsch, and Santa Maria. Shirreffs has trained eight horses that have earned more than $1 million: Zenyatta, Giacomo, Tiago, Life Is Sweet, Express Train, Manistique, Hollywood Story, and Gormley.
Nakatani, 52, won 3,909 races with purse earnings of $234,554,534 million in a career that spanned from 1988 to 2018. He ranks 14th all time in career earnings and won 341 graded stakes. Nakatani won 10 Breeders’ Cup races (one of only 10 riders to do so), including four editions of the Sprint. He won three riding titles at Del Mar, two at Santa Anita, and one at Hollywood Park, as well as four Oak Tree meetings. His major victories at the Grade 1 level included multiple editions of the Beverly D., Del Mar Oaks, Eddie Read, Hollywood Derby, Hollywood Gold Cup, Hollywood Starlet, Kentucky Oaks, Santa Anita Oaks, Santa Anita Handicap, and Santa Margarita, among others. He also won the Group 1 Golden Shaheen in Dubai.
A native of Covina, Calif., Nakatani won five Grade 1 races with Hall of Famer Lava Man. He also won multiple stakes with Hall of Famer Serena’s Song, as well as Eclipse Award winners Itsallgreektome, Jewel’s Princess, Lit de Justice, My Miss Aurelia, Reraise, Shared Belief, Sweet Catomine, and Thor’s Echo. Nakatani won a record 19 stakes during the 2006-2007 Santa Anita meet, breaking the track’s previous single-meet record held by Hall of Famer Laffit Pincay, Jr. Nakatani ranks second all time at Del Mar in stakes wins with 108 and sixth in overall wins. At Santa Anita, he ranks ninth in stakes wins (134) and 11th in overall wins (1,075). At Hollywood Park, Nakatani is seventh in stakes wins (143) and eighth (1,169) in overall wins.
Chaired by Edward L. Bowen, the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee is comprised of Bowen, Caton Bredar, Steven Crist, Tom Durkin, Bob Ehalt, Tracy Gantz, Teresa Genaro, Jane Goldstein, Steve Haskin, Jay Hovdey, Alicia Hughes, Tom Law, Jay Privman, Michael Veitch, and Charlotte Weber.
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