On Monday, April 21, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame announced its 2008 inductees, chosen from 12 finalists. The three horses, two jockeys, and one trainer were standouts from the past six decades of American racing. They will be officially inducted in a ceremony on Monday, August 4 at Saratoga Springs at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion.
The human inductees are jockeys Edgar Prado and Ishmael "Milo" Valenzuela, and trainer Carl Nafzger. The equine nominees are champion mare Inside Information as well as turf horse Manila and handicap champion Ancient Title.
Edgar Prado is best known as the regular rider of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, but he already had a Hall of Fame career before then. He was aboard two Belmont Stakes winners, each of which prevented a Triple Crown sweep, aboard Sarava in 2002 and Birdstone in 2004. In 2006 he received his first Eclipse Award as champion rider. As of Sunday his career totals are 6,040 wins in 31,539 starts, earnings of $205,283,461, and 261 graded stakes wins, putting him seventh on the career earnings list. He said, "I thought that (winning 500 races in one year) was the highlight of my career, until I went to New York. There I reached another level, where I ride better horses and ride Grade 1 winners and meet so many great people. That makes it really special. This sport is very, very special because you never know who you can meet around the corner and which one will have the next champion for you to ride."
Trainer Carl Nafzger has always operated a relatively small stable. A top rodeo competitor in the 1960's, he started his racing career with Quarter Horses in his native Texas before switching to Thoroughbreds. In 1990, Unbridled became the second of just two horses to win the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic in the same year. Banshee Breeze, 3-year-old filly champion in 1988, won five Grade 1 races. And then most recently, Street Sense became the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to come back to win the Kentucky Derby. He said, "These people have elected you now to be a representative of a sport that has been very good to Wanda and me. Horses have taken us to places you just can't go. You've also got to remember the responsibility of where you are now. You represent a sport and you better represent it good. I just hope I can represent it as good as some of the people who are in the Hall of Fame."
Milo Valenzuela will forever be remembered as the regular rider of Kelso, winning 22 stakes aboard the 5-time Horse of the Year in the 1960's. Riding from 1951 through 1980, he rode 2,545 winners in 21,203 starts, with total purse earnings of $20,122,760. He won the Derby and Preakness in the same year twice, with Tim Tam in 1958 and Forward Pass in 1968. The resident of Arcadia, CA said, "I am the happiest man today knowing that I have been recognized and accepted to the Hall of Fame. It would have been even a happier moment if my wife Rosa could have been here to share this dream. This was my last chapter in my racing career that I wanted to complete. My last ride across the finish line, at 73 being inducted into the Hall of Fame."
Inside Information, a Phipps Stable homebred, won 14 of 17 starts, including her final start, a 13-length romp in the 1995 Breeders' Cup Distaff over stablemate Heavenly prize. That performance earned her the Eclipse Award as champion older female. She retired to the Phipps broodmare band at Claiborne Farm. Owner-breeder Ogden Mills Phipps said, "She was a marvelous filly who had her problems. She had some impingement in her neck and Shug trained her extraordinarily well and got around that. Her big race, of course, was in the Breeders' Cup, which she won by a greater distance than any filly has ever won the Distaff. She was a wonderful mare and she was a great racehorse."
Manila, one of the most successful grass horses in American racing history, was finally elected in his 11th time on the ballot. The son of Lyphard, now standing at stud in Turkey, won 12 of 18 career starts and earned $2,692,799 for trainer Leroy Jolley. Manila was purchased after his winless 2-year-old season of 1985 by owner Bradley "Mike" Shannon. Shannon's timing proved to be ideal, as Manila compiled a 12-3-0 record in the final 15 starts of his career. He won nine consecutive races between June 7, 1986 and July 15, 1987, including the 1986 Breeders' Cup Turf. Following a half-length loss in the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga that ended his streak, Manila won the Arlington Million, which turned out to be the final race of his career.
"I'm totally astounded to hear that he was elected," said Shannon. "It's a great thrill. Manila was a very, very special horse. It was the greatest thrill to have owned him and been associated with him. And to be associated with his breeder, Eduardo Cojuangco, was a great, great thrill. He was a really good horse. He won the Breeders' Cup as a 3-year-old. He ran against everybody. I always said my life was AM and PM: prior to Manila and after Manila. It was all about Manila."
Ancient Title, a durable and versatile California-bred gelding, was bred and owned by the late William and Ethel Kirkland. He competed for seven seasons, from 1972 to 1978, and won 24 of 57 starts – 20 of them stakes – earning $1,252,791 in purse money. At the time of his retirement he ranked 10th in career earnings. During his career, Ancient Title successfully carried weight in major stakes races. As a 5-year-old in 1975, he won the Grade 1 Californian and Hollywood Gold Cup while spotting the competition weight. Though Ancient Title primarily raced in California, trainer Keith Stucki brought him to the East in 1975 for three major events. He won the Whitney Handicap by a neck over Group Plan, who was carrying 13 fewer pounds. He was third by two lengths to Wajima in the Governor Stakes while conceding 15 pounds and was third to Wajima and Forego in the Marlboro Cup while again conceding weight to the winner.
Stucki, 88, said Ancient Title deserved to be elected to the Hall of Fame. He added, "I'm very proud of it. I thought he should have gone in there two or three years ago, but I'm glad to hear that's he made it."