Espinoza, Goldikova Among Hall of Fame Finalists

By BloodHorse Staff
March 8, 2017-Five jockeys, three trainers, and three racehorses comprise the 11 finalists on the National Museum of Racing's 2017 Hall of Fame ballot, as selected by the Museum's Hall of Fame Nominating Committee, with results announced April 24.

The finalists are: jockeys Robby Albarado, Javier Castellano, Victor Espinoza, Garrett Gomez, and Craig Perret; trainers Mark Casse, John Shirreffs, and David Whiteley; and the racehorses Gio Ponti, Goldikova, and Kona Gold.

Albarado, Castellano, Casse, Shirreffs, Gio Ponti, and Goldikova are first-time finalists.

Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. A maximum of four candidates with the highest vote totals—provided they receive majority approval (50.1%) of the voting panel—will be elected to the Hall of Fame. The results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced April 24.

The induction ceremony will be at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Aug. 4 at 10:30 a.m. This year's ceremony will be open to the public and is free to attend.

Albarado, 43, has won 5,026 races to date with purse earnings of more than $206 million in a career that began in 1990. The regular rider of two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame inductee Curlin  , as well as Horse of the Year Mineshaft  , Albarado has won 202 graded stakes in his career, including three Breeders' Cup races and the 2007 Preakness Stakes (G1).

Castellano, 39, won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. He has 4,632 career wins to date and ranks fifth all time in purse earnings with more than $272 million in a career that began in 1997. North America's leading rider in earnings each year from 2013-16 and the leader by wins in 2013-15, Castellano set a single-year earnings record with $28.1 million in 2015. He has won 348 graded stakes, ranked in the top 10 in earnings 11 times and the top 10 in wins seven times.

Espinoza, 44, has won 3,316 races to date with purse earnings of more than $192 million in a career that began in 1992. The regular rider for 2015 Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year American Pharoah  and two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome  , Espinoza twice won the first two legs of the Triple Crown—with War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome in 2014—before sweeping the series with American Pharoah. One of only 10 jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) three times or more, Espinoza has won 240 graded stakes in his career and ranked in the top 10 nationally in earnings seven times.

Gomez (1972-2016) won 3,769 races with purse earnings of more than $205 million in a career that began in 1988 and concluded in 2013. The winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2007 and 2008, Gomez won 13 Breeders' Cup races and earned the Bill Shoemaker Award as the top jockey at the Breeders' Cup four times. He won a record 76 stakes races in 2007 and was the North American leading rider by earnings each year from 2006-09. Among his Breeders' Cup victories was the 2010 Classic (G1) with champion Blame  , handing Zenyatta her lone career defeat.

Perret, 66, won 4,415 races with purse earnings of more than $113 million in a career that spanned from 1967-05. The Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey in 1990, Perret won the Belmont Stakes (G1) in 1987 with Bet Twice by 14 lengths, denying Alysheba the Triple Crown. Three years later, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled. He won four Breeders' Cup races and totaled 208 graded stakes wins.

Casse, 56, has won 2,200 races to date with purse earnings of more than $125 million 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 eight times and owns 11 training titles at Woodbine. He has won three Breeders' Cup races and currently trains reigning Eclipse Award winners Tepin and Classic Empire.

Shirreffs, 71, became a licensed trainer in 1978 and to date has won 464 races with purse earnings of more than $44 million. He is best known as the trainer of 2010 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame member Zenyatta, winner in 19 of her 20 career starts and the all-time earnings leader among female racehorses with more than $7.3 million. In 2005, Shirreffs won the Kentucky Derby with Giacomo at odds of 50-1.

Whiteley, 71, 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 and won the Belmont Stakes in 1979 with Coastal, thwarting the Triple Crown hopes of Spectacular Bid.  A winner of 32.7% of his starts (678 for 2,068), Whiteley won 45 graded stakes.

Bred in Kentucky, Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat  —Chipeta Springs, by Alydar) won the Eclipse Award for champion turf male in 2009 and 2010 and the Eclipse for champion older male in 2009. Racing from 2007-11, Gio Ponti posted a career record of 12-10-1 from 29 starts and earned $6,169,800. Owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti won 10 graded stakes, including eight grade 1 races.

Bred in Ireland, Goldikova (Anabaa—Born Gold, by Blushing Groom), won the Eclipse Award for champion turf female in 2009 and 2010. In four North American starts, she won three consecutive runnings of the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) from 2008-10 and finished third in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Mile. She posted a career record of 17-6-3 from 27 starts and earned $7,176,551. Based in Europe, Goldikova was owned by Wertheimer and Frere and trained by Freddy Head. Racing from 2007-11, Goldikova won a total of 14 grade/group 1 races, including nine victories against males.

Bred in Kentucky, Kona Gold (Java Gold—Double Sunrise, by Slew o' Gold), won the Eclipse Award for champion sprinter in 2000. He also won the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) that year, setting a Churchill Downs track record in the process. Racing from 1998-03, Kona Gold posted a career record of 14-7-2 from 30 starts and earned $2,293,384. A winner of 10 graded stakes, including two grade 1 races, Kona Gold was trained by Bruce Headley and owned by a partnership that included the trainer.

Chaired by Edward L. Bowen, the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee is comprised of Bowen, Cot Campbell, Tim Capps, Steven Crist, Tracy Gantz-White, Teresa Genaro, Jane Goldstein, Steve Haskin, Jay Hovdey, Tom Law, Leverett Miller, Neil Milbert, Bill Nack, Jay Privman, John Sparkman and John von Stade.

The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame's nominating committee from a total of 86 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans.

To be eligible, trainers must have been licensed for 25 years, while jockeys must have been 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.