Four jockeys, four Thoroughbreds and two trainers comprise the 10 finalists on the National Museum of Racing’s 2016 Hall of Fame ballot, as selected by the Museum’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The finalists are: jockeys Ramon Dominguez, Victor Espinoza, Garrett Gomez and Craig Perret; Thoroughbreds English Channel, Kona Gold, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta; and trainers Steve Asmussen and David Whiteley.
Dominguez, English Channel, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are first-time finalists. Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. A maximum of four candidates with the highest vote totals — provided they receive majority approval (50.1 percent) of the voting panel — will be elected to the Hall of Fame. If less than than four candidates receive “yes” votes from a majority of voters, there will be fewer than four inductees in 2016. The results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced on Monday, April 25. The induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Friday, Aug. 12 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s 16-member Nominating Committee from a total of 82 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must have been licensed for 25 years, while jockeys must have been licensed for 20 years. Thoroughbreds are required to be retired for five calendar years before becoming eligible. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. The 20- and 25-year requirements for jockeys and trainers, respectively, may be waived, at the discretion of the Museum’s Executive Committee. Dominguez, who rode from 1996 through 2013 before suffering a career-ending injury, had the 20-year requirement waived by the Executive Committee. Candidates not active within the past 25 years are eligible through the Historic Review process.
Dominguez, 39, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, won 4,985 races (23 percent) and $191,620,277 in his career and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He led all North American riders in earnings each of those years, setting a record of $25,639,432 in 2012. Dominguez led all jockeys in wins in 2001 and 2003 and was second in wins on seven other occasions. He won a total of 20 individual meet riding titles on the New York Racing Association circuit, including a record 68 wins at Saratoga in 2012.
The overall leading rider in New York in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Dominguez won a total of 44 Grade 1 races in his career, including 25 from 2010 through 2012. He won three Breeders’ Cup races: the 2004 Turf (Better Talk Now), 2011 Juvenile (Hansen) and 2012 Turf (Little Mike). Dominguez was the regular rider of 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and his other top mounts included champions Gio Ponti and Hansen, as well as Alpha, Stay Thirsty, Fabulous Strike, Eight Belles, Better Talk Now, Haynesfield and Bluegrass Cat. Dominguez won multiple editions of the Man o’ War, Manhattan Handicap, Beldame, Remsen and Arlington Million, as well as single runnings of the Travers, Sword Dancer, Wood Memorial, Hollywood Derby, Suburban Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Apple Blossom and Woodward, among others.
Prior to settling in New York, Dominguez was the leading rider at Delaware Park from 2004 through 2007 and won multiple meet titles at Laurel Park and Pimlico in Maryland. He won a total of 160 graded stakes and currently ranks 17th all time in earnings and 32nd in wins.
Espinoza, 43, a native of Tulancingo, Mexico, has won 3,266 races (15 percent) with earnings of $186,231,530 through March 8. An Eclipse Award finalist in 2015 when he rode Horse of the Year American Pharoah to the first Triple Crown in 37 years, Espinoza has a total of seven victories in the Triple Crown series, including five in the past two years. He has three wins in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and one in the Belmont. Espinoza has ranked in the top 10 nationally in earnings seven times since 2000, including a peak position of No. 3 in both 2004 and 2006. He won 38 graded stakes from 2014 through 2015, including 19 Grade 1s. With American Pharoah and 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome, Espinoza has won a total of 15 graded stakes to date.
In 2015, Espinoza won Grade 1 races with Finnegans Wake, Hard Aces, Stellar Wind and Hard Not to Like in addition to the six Grade 1s he scored with American Pharoah, which included the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Haskell Invitational and Arkansas Derby in addition to the Triple Crown. In 2014, Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Santa Anita Derby, Hollywood Derby and San Felipe with California Chrome. His other Grade 1 wins in 2014 included the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Starlet with champion Take Charge Brandi and the FrontRunner and Del Mar Futurity with juvenile champion American Pharoah.
In 2002, Espinoza won the first two legs of the Triple Crown with champion War Emblem. Other major wins for Espinoza include the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (at odds of 55-1 with Spain in 2000) and multiple runnings of the Santa Anita Derby, Hollywood Derby, Eddie Read, Del Mar Oaks, Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien Handicap, Del Mar Debutante, Del Mar Futurity, Haskell Invitational and Norfolk, among others. He has also won single editions of the Santa Anita Handicap, Vosburgh, Champagne, Wood Memorial and Hollywood Gold Cup. At Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, Espinoza has won two riding titles at each track. He won a Del Mar record seven races Sept. 4, 2006. Espinoza ranks 19th all time in earnings and has won 229 graded stakes to date.
Gomez, 44, a native of Tucson, Ariz., rode from 1988 through 2013 and won 3,769 races (17 percent) and $205,224,899. The Eclipse Award winner in 2007 and 2008, Gomez led all North American riders in earnings in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2007, he set a single-year record with 76 stakes wins. He won 13 Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2010 Classic with Blame, handing Zenyatta her lone career defeat. He won the Bill Shoemaker Award for the top jockey at the Breeders’ Cup four times.
Gomez began his career at Santa Fe Downs in New Mexico in 1988 and rode on the California Fair Circuit before moving to the Midwest in 1989. He was the second-leading apprentice rider in the nation with 182 wins that year. Gomez’s career began to shine in the mid-1990s when he won back-to-back runnings of the Arkansas Derby in 1994 and 1995. Two years later, he won the American Derby, Arlington Classic and his first Grade 1, the Secretariat Stakes, all aboard Honor Glide.
Gomez relocated to the West Coast in 1998 and won the fall meet riding title that year at Hollywood Park. The next year, Gomez won four Grade 1 events on the West Coast and in 2000 won the first of back-to-back runnings of the Pacific Classic with Skimming. Gomez won the Pacific Classic a record-tying four times. Other major wins for Gomez include multiple editions of the Del Mar Oaks, Del Mar Futurity, Spinster, Cigar Mile, Hollywood Turf Cup, Santa Anita Oaks, Vanity and Woodbine Mile, as well as single runnings of the Travers, Santa Anita Derby, Whitney, Stephen Foster, Sword Dancer, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Haskell Invitational, Kentucky Oaks, Manhattan Handicap, Hollywood Derby, Dubai Golden Shaheen and Canadian International, among others. Gomez won three riding titles at Hollywood Park and one at Santa Anita. He ranks 13th all time in earnings and won a total of 318 graded stakes.
Perret, 66, won 4,415 races and had purse earnings of $113,837,299 in a career that spanned from 1967 through 2005. He was North America’s leading apprentice jockey in earnings in 1967 and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1990. In 1987, Perret rode Bet Twice to a 14-length victory in the Belmont Stakes, denying the Triple Crown hopes of Alysheba. During his Eclipse Award year of 1990, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled and Grade 1s with Housebuster, Safely Kept, Rhythm and With Approval. He won a total of 57 stakes races that year and earned a career-best $11,724,403.
In 1993, Perret won the first and third legs of the Canadian Triple Crown — the Queen’s Plate and Breeders’ Stakes — aboard that year’s Sovereign Award winner for Horse for the Year, Peteski. Perret also piloted Peteski to a victory in the Molson Export Million that year. Perret won the middle jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes, in 1994 with Bruce’s Mill in stakes-record time. He also won the Queen’s Plate in 1992 with Alydeed and the Breeders’ Stakes in 1995 with Charlie’s Dewan for a total of five victories in the Canadian Classics.
Along with four Breeders’ Cup victories, Perret also won multiple runnings of the Haskell Invitational, Travers, Vosburgh, Pimlico Special, Withers and Carter Handicap, as well as single editions of the Florida Derby, Coaching Club American Oaks, Wood Memorial, Hopeful and Clark Handicap, among others. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1988. Perret ranks 40th all time in earnings and 49th in wins.