On Friday morning, champions Curlin and Ashado will take their place among the racing legends set to be enshrined with the Class of 2014 in the Hall of Fame. On Thursday, their trainers reflected on the careers which landed them the sport’s ultimate honor.
Owned in partnership by Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor and Johns Martin, Ashado won 12 of 21 career starts and banked $3,931,440 in purse earnings from 2003 to 2005, and was voted the champion three-year-old filly of 2004 and champion older female in 2005.
A daughter of Saint Ballado, Ashado notched seven Grade I victories from ages 2, 3, and 4 including the Spinaway at Saratoga in 2003, the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2004 and the Ogden Phipps, Beldame and Go for Wand Handicap in 2005.
“It’s quite an accomplishment for any horse or person to make it to that level, so we’re proud of her for being able to do that,” said her trainer, Todd Pletcher. “She was second in the Breeders’ Cup as a 2-year-old, so she was one place away from being a champion three years in a row.”
Ashado becomes the first horse conditioned by Pletcher – a six-time Eclipse Award winner for outstanding trainer – to be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame.
“She was very good at 2, very good at 3 and very good at 4, and I’m sure had she raced at 5 she would have been good then, too,” Pletcher said. “She was very consistent, and for me, she was the first Kentucky Oaks winner, first Breeders’ Cup winner, and now first Hall of Fame inductee. It’s pretty cool that she’s the first one to accomplish all that.”
Late wine magnate Jess Jackson purchased Curlin following his impressive maiden victory at Gulfstream Park in February 2007 and moved him to the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen. The Smart Strike colt would go on to earn four Eclipse Awards in two years, including back-to-back Horse of the Year titles in 2007 and 2008.
Part of one of the best 3-year-old crops in recent memory, Curlin was third in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and was second in the Belmont Stakes in 2007 before reeling off wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic over older horses. In 2008, he captured the $6 million Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup – all Grade I – and was second in the Grade I Man o’ War on turf and fourth in the first Breeders’ Cup Classic run on a synthetic surface.
He retired as North America’s all-time leading earner with $10,501,800 in purses, winning 11 of 16 starts.
“I think how he responded to difficult situations is what separated him from anything I’ve ever been associated with,” said Asmussen. “For him to get done what he did in the year that he did, against a very fast group of horses that put up tremendous numbers; to have only started your career in February, run in all three Triple Crown races and then beat older horses with everybody still being around in the Classic at the end of the year, you just don’t do it.
“Not only did he do that, but he goes to Dubai the following year, wins the World Cup and then was one of the few horses to come back and still maintain a Grade I level. He built on what he did instead of chipping away at what he did.”
Ashado and Curlin will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with jockey Alex Solis and trainer Gary Jones. Lloyd Hughes, the first jockey to win the Preakness Stakes three times, and Clifford, an elite racehorse of the 1890s, will also be inducted having been elected by the Museum’s Historic Review Committee. Esteemed sportsmen Edward Bradley and Edward Taylor will be inducted as Pillars of the Turf, a category designated to honor individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to Thoroughbred racing in a leadership or pioneering capacity.
The Hall of Fame ceremonies take place at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion beginning at 10:30 a.m. It is open to the public.
The Museum’s executive committee also announced Thursday that prominent racehorse owner and noted philanthropist Gretchen Jackson has been named president of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Jackson succeeds Stella F. Thayer, who has served as the Museum’s president since 2005. Thayer will continue as a member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees.
Jackson, along with her husband, Roy, owns a 190-acre farm in West Grove, Pa., and have raced and bred thoroughbreds since 1978. Racing as Lael Stables, Jackson campaigned 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro and won the Eclipse Award for outstanding owner that year.