Pletcher, American Pharoah are Racing Hall of Fame finalists

GAZETTE FILE PHOTOTrainer Todd Pletcher speaks to the media in the winner's circle at Saratoga Race Course in 2015.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Trainer Todd Pletcher speaks to the media in the winner's circle at Saratoga Race Course in 2015.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — There supposedly is no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing, but this sure looks like one.

Trainer Todd Pletcher was named Wednesday as a finalist, along with American Pharoah, for induction into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, and perhaps the only question about the upcoming voting process is whether Pletcher will get in unanimously.

That’s how stacked his resume is.

Pletcher and 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, both in their first year of eligibility, were the only new finalists added by the Nominating Committee to a list that already included Blind Luck, Game On Dude, Havre de Grace, Kona Gold, and Rags to Riches; trainers Christophe Clement and Doug O’Neill; and, jockey Corey Nakatani.

Pletcher has trained 11 Eclipse Award-winning horses — Hall of Famer Ashado, English Channel, Fleet Indian, Lawyer Ron, Left Bank, Rags to Riches, Shanghai Bobby, Speightstown, Wait a While, Uncle Mo, and Vino Rosso — and 20 horses that have earned more than $1.8 million.

He has won the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer himself seven times, from 2004-07 and in 2010, 2013 and 2014, and his career purse earnings top out at over $400 million.

He has won the Kentucky Derby twice, with Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017, and the Belmont Stakes three times, with Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013 and Tapwrit in 2017. When Rags to Riches outdueled two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the Belmont, she became the first filly to win that race since Tanya in 1905.

On the New York Racing Association circuit, Pletcher has won 14 leading trainer titles Saratoga Race Course, including the 2020 meet, 16 at Belmont Park and six at Aqueduct. He has won 16 titles at Gulfstream Park, five at Keeneland and two at Monmouth Park.

American Pharoah also looks like a slam dunk for induction, considering he was the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 and went on to also win three Eclipse Awards, for 2-Year-Old Male in 2014, and for 3-Year-Old Male and Horse of the Year in 2015.

He lost just two of 11 career starts, one of which was a second to Keen Ice in the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 29, 2015.

Trainers become eligible for induction after they’ve been licensed for 25 years, and horses are eligible once they’ve been retired from racing for five years.

After the national pool of voters submits their ballots, the class of 2021 in the contemporary category will be announced on Wednesday, May 5.

Hall of Fame voters may select as many or as few candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. All candidates that receive 50% plus one vote (majority approval) from the voting panel will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

All of the finalists were required to receive support from two-thirds of the 15-member Nominating Committee to qualify for the ballot.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony — which will honor both the 2020 and 2021 inductees — is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Aug. 6, at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many details relating to the induction ceremony are still to be determined.

In the contemporary category, the 2020 inductees were trainer Mark Casse and Wise Dan, but their ceremony was canceled because of the pandemic.

 

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