Hall of Fame Class Includes Rachel Alexandra and Her Trainer
Two remarkable horses, a trainer and jockey will be inducted this year into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.
Steve Asmussen and Rachel Alexandra, the great mare he trained to Horse of the Year honors, as well as Horse of the Year Zenyatta and jockey Ramon Dominguez will be inducted on Friday, August 12, at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The four were chosen from a list of 10 finalists that included last year’s Triple Crown winning jockey Victor Espinoza.
In 2009, 3-year old Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924. Two weeks earlier she won the Kentucky Oaks by more than 20 lengths. She was trained by Steve Asmussen for the remainder of her career and became the second filly to win the Haskell Invitational and the first to win the Woodward Stakes. She was the first 3-year-old filly in more than 50 years to be voted Horse of the Year in 2009.
Rachel’s Valentina is the new favorite to win the 2016 Kentucky Oaks now that Songbird has bowed out. She is the 3-year old daughter of Rachel Alexandra who was sired by Bernardini.
5-year-old Zenyatta became the first female horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, setting off fierce conversations about whether she or Rachel Alexander were more deserving of Horse of the Year honors. Zenyatta would go on to win Horse of the Year the following year in 2010 and won 19 of her 20 career races with her final race her lone loss in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Zenyatta retired with earnings of $7.3 million.
Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta join the impressive list of Hall of Fame horses.
Steve Asmussen, 50, ranks second all-time in wins with 7,287 as of April 24. The Churchill regular also sits fourth in earnings ($241,071,415) and is a two-time Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Trainer (2008, 2009). He trained Curlin, who won Horse of the Year honors in 2007 and 2008. Asmussen began his training career in 1986 after a brief stint as a jockey. He led all North American trainers in wins nine times and earnings three times. In 2004, Asmussen set a single-season record of 555 wins and broke his own record in 2008 with 621 wins and topped it once again with 650 wins in 2009.
“To be honored in this way and to be inducted simultaneously- same year as Rachel Alexandra – is indescribable,” Asmussen said.
A fan favorite known for his charitable work to benefit backstretch communities, Ramon Dominguez, 39 was granted an eligibility waiver in February by the Museum’s executive committee. A native of Caracas, Venezuela, he was a licensed rider in the United States for 18 years and won 4,985 races (23 percent) and 44 Grade I races with career earnings of $191,620,277. Dominguez won the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and won a total of 20 individual meet riding titles on the New York Racing Association circuit. He fell two years short of the ordinary 20-year requirement for consideration. Jockeys that don’t meet that requirement ordinarily have to wait five years after retirement to be eligible, but as Dominguez would have been eligible for induction this year had he not been injured, the Executive Committee waived the waiting period
Dominguez, 39, won an impressive 23 percent of his races and 44 Grade Is aboard stars such as Breeders’ Cup winners Hansen and Little Mike, as well as Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.
The four contemporary inductees were chosen from a nationwide voting panel comprised of 188 racing writers, broadcasters, industry officials and historians from a group of 10 finalists selected by the Hall of Fame’s 16-member Nominating Committee.