SARATOGA SPRINGS — The seven newest members of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will have to wait before they can have their induction moment. That is because, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hall of Fame canceled the formal ceremony Thursday, which was scheduled to take place Friday, Aug. 7, at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion.
Instead, the Class of 2020 will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with the Class of 2021 next summer.
This is the first time the ceremony has been canceled since it began in 1955.
“This is absolutely the right call,” trainer Mark Casse, one of the seven to be inducted, said by phone from Ocala, Fla., on Thursday. “I would like to be able to bring family and friends to the ceremony. I have waited 40 years for this. I can wait another year.”
Casse was to have been inducted along with two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, jockey Darrel McHargue, horse Tom Bowling and Pillars of the Turf Alice Headley Chandler, Keene Daingerfield Jr. and George D. Widener Jr.
The Museum Ball, another annual summer event in the Spa City, has also been called off. The 44th annual Museum Ball was scheduled for Aug. 14.
“We really had no other option,” John Hendrickson, the president of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, said by phone from Kentucky on Thursday. “This was an easy call. There is a lot of planning that goes into this, the ceremony doesn’t just happen.”
Hendrickson said that alternative ideas were tossed around and they included having the ceremony in the fall in Kentucky or having the ceremony online. In the end, it was decided to wait a year. That is the same path being taken by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The 2020 class, including New York Yankees great Derek Jeter, will be inducted with the 2021 class next year.
Casse said he still has the glow from when he found out he would be inducted. The Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2020 on May 6. It was expected then that the ceremony would most likely be canceled because of the pandemic.
“I just feel fortunate to be in the Hall of Fame,” Casse said and then added with a laugh, “does this mean I can still be called a Hall of Famer?”
Casse is at his farm in Florida. He said he would have had a good-sized number of family and friends who would have come to his ceremony. Waiting another year is not going to bother him. It will give him more time to pad his Hall of Fame resume. Last year, he won two legs of the Triple crown when War of Will won the Preakness and Sir Winston won the Belmont Stakes.
He said he won’t have a horse in this year’s Belmont, which is the first leg of the Triple Crown for the first time (it is normally the third) and will be run at 1 1/8 miles instead of the customary 1 1/2 miles. He does have a horse, Enforceable, who he is pointing to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, Sept. 5.
The Museum is closed to the public as it continues to undergo construction. It is hoped that once the renovations are completed, the Museum will be allowed to open at some point during the summer.
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