The 2011 National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame inductees have been announced, and what a fine group of inductees it is. Three champion fillies, Open Mind, Safely Kept and Sky Beauty will join trainer Jerry Hollendorfer as they enter the Hall on Friday, August 12 at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga.
As a fellow New Jersey bred, I always had a soft spot for Open Mind. The chestnut filly was bred in my home state by Due Process Stables and was out of two of my old favorites in Deputy Minister and Stage Luck. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Open Mind began her career against state bred colts at Monmouth Park. I was witnessed her second career start when she won the NJ Breeders Stakes in a long, sustained stretch drive. Two race later she missed getting up in the Grade 1 Frizette by the slimmest of margins. She closed out her juvenile season with wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Demoiselle Stakes on her way to being named Champion 2-Year-Old Filly of 1988.
The following year Open Mind proved that she was the best of her crop as she won the Kentucky Oaks, swept the New York Filly Triple Tiara, of the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks, and for good measure got up in the final strides in Saratoga’s Alabama Stakes. The Alabama marked her 10th consecutive win, all of them stakes and most of them grade 1’s. Open Mind was probably a little tired from her rigorous campaign and could not handle Bayakoa that fall, but she had already done more than enough to win her 2nd consecutive Eclipse Award. In all she won 12 of 19 career starts, including 11 stakes races.
I have seen plenty of great distaff sprinters over the past 40 years, but none of them had the career that Safely Kept did. The daughter of the turf loving Horatius, was bred in Maryland and had pedigree that did not have the look of a champion sprinter. Then she ran. Narrowly missing in her debut, Safely Kept won her next three starts by just under 24 lengths. Based in Marlyand, but also a regular in New York and New Jersey, I had the pleasure of seeing the Alan Goldberg trained speedster run on many occasions. I never saw her beaten. In four superlative seasons of racing, she won 24 of 31 starts and accumulated earnings of $2,194,206.
Safely Kept’s best season may have been at three when she won eight out nine starts. The only blemish on her perfect sprinting season came against older males in her final start of the season. In the Breeders’ Cup Sprint she was caught in the shadow of the wire by the rallying Dancing Spree after leading the entire way. Despite the loss, she earned the Eclipse Award as Champion Sprinter. The following year, Safely Kept proved just as dominant, this time winning in eight of ten races. Her season and her place in history were ensured when she won the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Sprint against an overflow field of talented males. She concluded her career with five wins in seven starts at 5, including winning the Genuine Risk Handicap, Maryland Million Distaff and Garden State Stakes Handicap each for the third consecutive year.
Sky Beauty may have never won a Breeders’ Cup, and only one Eclipse Award, yet she still managed to put together a remarkable career that included 13 graded stakes wins. A daughter of Blushing Groom out of the excellent Nijinsky mare, Maplejinsky, Sky Beauty had the look of a champion right from the beginning. In five starts at two, she won each race easy, including the Adirondack, Spinaway, and Matron Stakes, although she was taken down in the Spinaway. Despite her domination in New York, the Eclipse that year went to the BC Juvenile Fillies’ winner, Eliza. After a narrow defeat to begin her sophomore season in the Bonnie Miss, Sky Beauty returned to her winning ways.
She swept Belmont’s Triple Tiara, before taking the Alabama in her typical effortless fashion. By the time she shipped away from the East Coast for the first for trainer Allen Jerkens, Sky Beauty had finished first ten times, with one 2nd in only eleven starts. Unfortunately, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff was not meant to be for the talented filly, as she finished 5th at Santa Anita. Once again the Eclipse would go to the BC winner, this time Hollywood Wildcat.
At 4, Sky Beauty posted another impressive winning streak, including a 9 ½ and 10 ½ length runaways in the Grade 1 Shuvee and Grade 1 Go for Wand respectively. Unfortunately, her BC disappointments continued as she ran poorly in the 1994 Distaff at Churchill Downs. This time she had accomplished enough to win that elusive Eclipse Award as Outstanding Handicap Mare. In a brief campaign at 5, Sky Beauty added an easy win in the Vagrancy. She retired with 15 career wins, ten of them of the grade 1 variety.
Jerry Hollendorfer is the unquestioned King of Northern California, dominating race meets in the bay area for nearly thirty years. Remarkably, he won the training championship at every major Northern California race meeting from 1986 through 2008, with a staggering 37 consecutive titles at Bay Meadows and 32 straight titles at Golden Gate Fields. Despite his incredible run of success, 2010 may have been his finest season to date. He won five Grade 1 races with the formidable trio of Eclipse Award winner Blind Luck, turf sensation Tuscan Evening, and BC Dirt Mile winner, Dakota Phone.
Through last season, Hollendorfer ranks fourth in all-time victories with 5,863 and eighth in all-time in earnings, with just a shade under $120 million, among North American trainers. Besides his amazing record in California, Hollendorfer might be best known as the trainer of three winners of the Kentucky Oaks, with Blind Luck, Pike Place Dancer, and Lite Light. The first time I saw the prolific conditioner was back in 1989 when he brought the great talent King Glorious to New Jersey for the Haskell Invitational. King Glorious won easy that day, and Hollendorfer has been racking up stakes wins ever since.
To all four deserving, new inductees I say, “Welcome to the Hall of Fame!”