In the morning, the National Museum of Racing enshrined six new members into the Hall of Fame. In the afternoon, the track came alive with lucrative longshots and people watching. Fasig-Tipton Company held the first of two evenings of yearling sales when twilight descended. How much better can the sport entertain?
Jockey Edgar Prado, who thanked his mom for making him 5’ 3” and 114 pounds, was the most popular Hall of Fame inductee. Trainer Carl Nafzger, who was the last at the lectern, felt the love of the crowd, too. But keynote speaker Dr. Dean Richardson, master of ceremonies Ed Bowen, and event organizer Mike Kane, deserve kudos.
Richardson’s address was spiked with humorous anecdotes, including a confession that he “joined Pony Club at the age of 18.” Nevertheless, the celebrity vet gave the event no-joke medicine in a manner that made you take him seriously. “There’s no future in not trying,” he reminded the audience, employing a down-to-earth double negative that resounded with clarity.
With cell phones chiming in the background, Bowen wisecracked that Manny Ycaza and Angel Cordero Jr. would have “gotten days” for reaching over as Prado did to steady the reins for a rival jockey that lost control of his horse in a race earlier in the week. Kane caused a litany of hyperbole about 19 Hall of Famers to fly by like an invocation.
Audience members who arrived late, including future Hall of Fame certainty Steve Asmussen, had to stand in the back of the balcony. Gene Stevens, the journalist with the Peggy Steinman hairdo, seem bewildered that there was no place for him to sit after he entered the hall’s main floor after the ceremony began.
At the races, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sat in enemy territory. He camped in rival party member Joe Bruno’s box. Schumer, dressed in a baggy charcoal suit, also visited with former Turfway Park owner Jerry Carroll in the paddock. Carroll was dressed in white bucks, pale yellow shirt, lime-plaid pants and blue double-breasted blazer - ouch.
The field that these schmoozers observed included a couple of 2-year-old maiden colts that finished the fifth in a dead-heat for first. Skipadate and Ninth Client produced across-the-board prices that were astronomical despite sharing the betting pools. More in line with expectations, the eighth was won by Indian Ashton ($4.10). Little known invaders - Wesley Ward and his rider Elvis Trujillo Jr. - have blown their covers.
Wesley, the horse – no relation to Ward, the trainer, won the featured National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II). Locals packed the twinkling grounds and sneaked into the air-conditioned sales pavilion after hoisting a glass or two at the Blue Moon a few hours later. Even people who “don’t know which end of the horse to feed” – a line from Richardson’s speech – enjoyed themselves thoroughly. The auctioneer ended at 10:34 p.m.