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From the Kentucky Derby to the Hall of Fame

Animal Kingdom Kentucky Derby 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Have you ever thought about the historical significance of the Kentucky Derby and the impact that a Derby victory has on a jockey or trainer’s career?
Since the Derby was first run in 1875 there have been 17 trainers with more than one winner in the Run for the Roses and all 17 of them have been inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame. On the jockey side there have been 23 riders with multiple Derby wins and all but one of them were admitted to the Hall of Fame. Can you guess who that one exception is? You will find the answer as you read more about the Derby/HOF connection.
Baseball has the 300 win club which has been viewed as a sure way for a pitcher to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Twenty-four pitchers have reached the 300 milestone and Roger Clemens is the only exception. His use of performance-enhancing drugs has put his future election in serious doubt.
The other likely path into Cooperstown is the 3,000 hit club. To date there have been 28 major leaguers to get to 3,000 hits and only three are not in the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose is permanently banned for betting on baseball and Craig Biggio and Rafael Palmeiro were not elected. The other 25 hitters were admitted on the first ballot.
In comparison two victories in the Kentucky Derby are even more meaningful in the career of a jockey or trainer than are the baseball milestones. There is still a chance that the one exception in racing could change because Chris Antley is among the 10 nominees for this year’s Hall of Fame class. In a relatively short career of 17 years Antley won 3,480 races, which included the Kentucky Derby in 1991 on Strike the Gold and again in 1999 with Charismatic. In 1987 he won 9 races in a single day. Throughout his career Antley battled with substance abuse problems and he eventually died mysteriously in what was thought to be a drug related death in 2000.
Antley not only had amazing talent as a rider, but he put up big numbers while winning many big races besides his two Derbies. He would need to be in the top four vote getters from this year’s 10 nominees [Antley, Garrett Gomez, Craig Perret, Alex Solis, Steve Asmussen, Gary Jones, Ashado, Curlin, Kona Gold, and Xtra Heat] to get into the Hall of Fame. He is the most worthy of the four jockeys nominated and if I were a voter, Antley would be one of my choices.
As we head towards the 2014 Derby there are several people with a shot at their second win. A couple of them are already in the Hall of Fame, another two of them might need that magical second Derby to get in, and a couple of them already have the necessary credentials.
Graham Motion is seeking his second Derby win this year. Motion, who won the 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom, found his Derby contender when Ring Weekend won the Tampa Bay Derby by three lengths in gate to wire fashion.
With the injury to Top Billing, trainer Shug McGaughey will have to rely on Honor Code to get a second Derby victory that would pad his already impressive training resume. Of the 92 trainers in the Hall of Fame 21 of them have only one win in the Kentucky Derby.
Todd Pletcher‘s six Eclipse Awards to date will certainly get him into the Hall of Fame, but he will have to wait until 2021 to meet the requirement of being an active trainer for 25 years. At this point his main 2014 Derby candidates are Intense Holiday and Constitution.
On the jockey side Victor Espinoza became a legitimate contender for his second Derby victory when California Chrome ran off to a 7½ length win in the San Felipe at Santa Anita. Espinoza previously won the Derby with War Emblem in 2002. War Emblem is the only front-runner to win the Derby since 2000 and California Chrome has that same running style.
There are currently 97 jockeys in the Racing Hall of Fame and 24 of them have won the Derby once. Mike Smith won the 2005 Derby on long shot Giacomo and John Velazquez took the Roses in 2011 on Animal Kingdom. These two Hall of Famers will most likely be in the Derby starting gate this year.
The 2014 Hall of Fame inductees will be announced on Friday, April 25th. Hopefully on that day the “two Derby wins” path will no longer have an exception and Chris Antley will join the racing’s best jockeys in the Hall of Fame. 


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Older Comments about From the Kentucky Derby to the Hall of Fame...

Well, I guess dennis.mathews' statement is amusing as well as containing truthful elements; but I have both heard Steve A. say and read written accounts in which he gives credit for "his" success to his entire team, family (wife Julie), and his assistant trainers with special mention of Scott Blasi.
Great article, Matt. As far as the HOF goes, Curlin is a lock, and Asmussen is a near-lock. That leaves the eight others essentially vying for two spots. Antley's talent isn't in question, but like fellow nominee Garrett Gomez, his off-track demons may weigh heavy on the minds of voters. On ability, he's a Hall of Famer, but I'm not sure the voters will shut out his habits away from the track.
LOL, dennis.mathews.376
Without question Asmussen is a very good trainer. However, does anyone really believe his bloated statistics. Horses placed across the country with unheralded assistants and Steve takes all the glory. This is bogus plain and simple! I'd like to nominate him to the corporate franchise Hall of Fame
I agree with AndyScoggin and Brian; it's time for Chris Antley to be inducted into the Hall.
The Ant Man needs to be in the Hall of Fame ... Now!

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 Meet Matt Shifman 

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

• Preakness Interview with Trainer Todd Pletcher

• Kentucky Derby 2016 Handicapping Tips from A to Z


• Edison: the Travels of a Million Dollar Colt 

• A Kentucky Derby Field with Just 14 Horses

• What is the Best Kentucky Derby Running Style?



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