Racing Hall of Fame: Hollendorfer has enjoyed a blessed life

As thankful as trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was Friday morning for his induction into the National Mus

As thankful as trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was Friday morning for his induction into the National Mus­eum of Racing Hall of Fame, it was apparent he was thankful for so much more.

Hollendorfer’s acceptance speech at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion was, for the most part, a list of people who had helped him to his 5,990 wins before the day’s racing began. He rattled them off with ease, and even a laugh or two, until one of them rattled him back.

When Hollendorfer reached the bottom portion of his speech, he welled up before his wife Janet’s name could even start coming out. Once it did, he got only halfway through her surname, giving way to the sudden flood of emotion he had controlled for the first three minutes at the podium.

His wife and top assistant trainer, Janet, was diagnosed with brain cancer and had a large tumor removed in the spring of 2009, making the couple of years after that all gravy for Hollendorfer, the winningest trainer in Northern California with $119,141,280 in purse winnings through the end of 2010.

But it wasn’t all heart-in-throat for the man who started as a hot walker and has been in the top 10 in wins for the past 24 years. Among his friends who have helped him to his place as the fourth-winningest trainer in the nation’s history, he made sure to mention his top jockey.

“I’m humbled to be standing next to so many people who have done so many things,” Hollendorfer said. “I first attended racing at Ascot Park in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It was there I got to see Eddie Maple [2009 inductee] ride his bug. He’s well known and has been inducted into this very hall. I’ve enjoyed being an owner, as well as a trainer, and I’ve enjoyed working with many top riders, one of which is Russell Baze [1999 inductee]. We’ve won over 2,500 races together. He’s been there for me all the time.”

Baze actually will be riding a pair of horses for Hollendorfer today at Santa Rosa.

And Hollendorfer made sure to thank Sid and Jenny Craig — yes, that Jenny Craig — among the owners he has worked for, then, to a round of chuckles, he thanked “last but not least, M.C. Hammer,” for whom he trained Lite Light to a win in the Kentucky Oaks in 1991.

Actually last and not least, he made a gesture to the industry’s fans from Saratoga back to his home base in California.

“I’d like to dedicate this plaque to all the racing fans of America,” Hollendorfer said. “This plaque will remain at Saratoga, forever yours.”

Hollendorfer’s three contemp­orary classmates are all fillies, best introduced by Philip Richter’s closing remarks.

“Let’s hear it for the girls — Open Mind, Safely Kept and Sky Beauty,” said Richter, the grandson of Philip Hofmann, husband to Sky Beauty’s owner, Georgia Hofmann.

Richter talked about the filly’s ability to run any distance en route to her record of 15-2-2 from 21 starts, nine Grade I wins in the mix, and mentioned the filly’s influence beyond the track.

“In many ways, Sky Beauty brought our family and friends closer together,” Richter said.

Safely Kept was 24-2-3 in 31 starts for owner Barry Weisbord, including a stretch of four wins in five starts as a 2-year-old and eight in nine starts as a sophomore.

“It was the most amazing three-year run, going to these races,” Weisbord said. “And when we didn’t try to do something stupid, like rate her or go long, she came away with the win. She won 20 races in a row, 19 stakes, running against her same sex and sprinting.”

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas remembered shopping for yearlings with his son Jeff when he discovered and bought Open Mind. He later sat with the owners he represented and they doled out the new stock, until Open Mind and one other yearling remained unwanted. He was about to absorb the relatively small cost of the pair, when Eugene Klein decided he’d take them both.

Lukas said everything Klein touched turned to gold, but it was Lukas who first had a hunch about this filly who went on to an 8-0-2 mark from 11 starts as a 3-year-old and a career record of 12-2-2 from 19 starts.

“She was a little bit underweight, small, kind of frail, and I turned to Jeff and I said, ‘Jeff, what’s this by?’ ” Lukas said. “He said it’s by a sire named Deputy Minister that Bob Brennan had. And I said, ‘What was he in?’ And he said, ‘Oh, we went by him a few times at Belmont. He’s just a first-year sire, but he’s a pretty nice horse.’ I looked at her, and I said, ‘I kind of like this filly. Let’s keep an open mind.’ ”

The Historic Review inductees were jockey Shelby “Pike” Barnes, trainer Matthew Byrnes and turf legend Duke of Magenta, who won 11 of 12 grass starts as a 3-year-old. Barnes was represented by Will­iam Tichenor, a former jockey from Barnes’ hometown of Beaver Dam, Ky. Via pre-recorded video, Happy Broadbent — a descendent of the Haggin family for whom Byrnes trained — accepted for Byrnes. Hall of Fame committee chairman Ed Bowen spoke briefly about Duke of Magenta.

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