Horsemen from today and yesterday were celebrated Friday as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame welcomed its induction class of 2017.
Two jockeys who are still active, Javier Castellano and Victor Espinoza, highlighted the nine-member class, which included three “Pillars of the Turf” honorees elected posthumously.
In front of a near capacity gathering at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion, including 15 previously elected Hall of Famers, most of inductees or members of their family spoke of how the sport has impacted their lives.
“Horse racing is a passion of mine,” said Castellano, 39, a native Venezuelan who has ridden five Travers winners. “The industry of horse racing is so important. This game will go through a lot of change, but everyone here in this room have the same aspiration — to love these beautiful animals. The highs can be high, the lows can be low. I hope we can always stick together and be loyal to one another and the sport. It will benefit us in the long run.”
“Besides being a superstar jockey,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who used Castellano aboard Stay Thirsty to win the 2011 Travers, “he is a high quality person and represents racing well. He greatly deserves it.”
Espinoza, 45, rode to fame on American Pharoah — who ended racing’s 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015 — along with California Chrome, the Horse of the Year in 2014 and 2016.
Javier Castellano: One of only two jockeys to win four consecutive Eclipse Awards, won Travers five times, remains active at age 39.
Victor Espinoza: Won seven Triple Crown races, including three aboard American Pharoah in 2015, and still racing at age 45.
Garrett Gomez: Won 3,769 races, including 13 in the Breeders’ Cup, before his retirement in 2013. He died Dec. 14, 2016, at age 44.
Thomas Voss: Led National Steeplechase Association five times and in victories three times. He died on Jan. 21, 2014, at age 63.
Goldikova: Won Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2008, 2009 and 2010, two-time Eclipse Award winner for Female Turf Horse, retired in 2011.
Gold Night Shirt: One of three steeplechasers to earn $1 million, won first of back-to-back Eclipse Awards in 2007 as 6-year-old.
PILLARS OF THE TURF
Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps: Part of a legendary racing family, was Jockey Club chairman for 32 years. He died April 9, 2016, at age 75.
Matt Winn: Longtime president of Churchill Downs, credited for making Kentucky Derby into a national race. He died Oct. 6, 1949, at age 88.
John Gaines: Breeder and owner for more than 40 years, known as the founder of the Breeders’ Cup. He died Feb. 13, 2005, at age 76.
“When I was a kid, I never knew that I was going to be a jockey,” said Espinoza, born in Mexico. “I didn’t grow up at the track. I never saw horse racing until I was probably 13, 14 years old, when I went to the track with my brother, Leo. I was sitting there watching, and someone said, ‘Are you a jockey? You have the size.’ That gave me the idea to try and be a jockey.”
The other human inductees had passed away before their election, including jockey Garrett Gomez, who died in December from a drug overdose at 44.
His father, Louie Gomez, accepted the honor on his behalf.
“He always wanted to be a racetracker,” Gomez said. “He just lived a racetrack life. He was quite a little handful, and he didn’t do nothing except the horses, and that’s the way he wanted to keep his life. We thank you all for bringing this moment. There’s nothing greater that he wanted.”
Martin J. Winn, known by most as Col. Matt Winn, was honored for his contributions in the early days of racing. He was born in 1861 in Louisville and became an integral part in the growth of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.
His great-grandson, Richard Herrmann, received the plaque on the family’s behalf.
“My favorite story is one my father, Louie Herrmann, told me over and over,” Herrmann said. “He said the thing that he’ll never forget about Col. Winn is that no matter how many celebrities, industry people, journalists, horsemen he met, when he came home — and he was known as Papa at home — Papa never ever forgot the friends of my father’s names. I thought, wow, that’s really cool. He’s a real person, and today, he’s a really big person.”
Also enshrined in the “Pillars of the Turf” category were John Gaines, credited with creating the Breeders’ Cup, and Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, longtime Jockey Club chairman.
“In keeping with my father’s traditions, he’d rather deflect praise and instead give thanks to others,” Ogden Phipps II said. “In saying thank you for honoring my dad’s career in horse racing, it’s impossible not to mention the man who was predominantly responsible for his success. Shug (McGaughey, Hall of Fame trainer), you stood up here 13 years ago today, and so graciously said you would not have gotten here if it wasn’t for our family. Well, I want you to know that Dad wouldn’t have gotten here today without you.”
Two horses also were added to the Hall: Goldikova, a three-time Breeders’ Cup winner, and Gold Night Shirt, a steeplechase specialist.
Steeplechase trainer Thomas Voss, who died in 2014, rounded out the Class of 2017.
“I did an interview with Jack Fisher, who worked for Tom,” said Joe Clancy, a steeplechase writer who accepted for the Voss family. “I asked Jack what he learned from Tom, and Jack said, ‘Work hard and pay attention.’ Tom worked hard and paid attention, all the way to the Hall of Fame.”
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