I am one of a group of 16 aficionados of the turf, charged annually with selecting ten finalists for the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame. We do this so that a much larger group can then vote on and select four inductees into this great institution. And that is truly a fabulous honor for man or beast.
In the old days, there was an automatic top vote-getting inductee in each of four different categories: female horse, male horse, jockey, and trainer. Two years ago, our testy little group decided that this was a poor procedure because some years the category of, say, female horse might be loaded with wonderful candidates, and the qualified trainer category might be relatively weak. Therefore, the four top vote-getting candidates -- be they horse or human -- should be the inductees. Thus, it is possible that on a given year four jockeys could get in, and, conceivably, no horse, no trainer, or three female horses and one trainer.
I am a strong advocate for the one-in-each-category procedure. Perhaps I am wrong, but I hope there is a bit of groundswell of support for returning to this system. While it is important that the strongest possible candidates gain entry to the Hall of Fame, and that weak candidates not receive an undeserved honor, it is even more important that the fans of Thoroughbred racing attend, support and be enthralled with the Hall of Fame ceremonies and the essence of those ceremonies taking place at Saratoga Springs, New York, each August.
There has never been any hall of fame of any sort -- sports, entertainment, business, you name it -- that has not been rife with dissension. It is an endeavor that incites fierce passion. The fleas go with the dog. So there will never be an ideal solution. But I submit that the idea that I champion is the least objectionable one.
Chairman of the contentious nominating committee is long-suffering Ed Bowen, a super distinguished author, racing's leading historian, and truly a friend of the horse and those who ply their trade with the horse. By design, he sets no criteria for voting on nominees, and feels that it is important for each of the l6 to provide their own personal interpretation as to Hall of Fame suitability.
This brings me to the subject of Calvin Borel. I hope very much that he gets in Racing's Hall of Fame -- this year. He and John Velazquez and Garrett Gomez are three jockeys in the final list of ten nominees. Johnny and Garrett are slam dunks to get in in the very near future.
At this point, I should state that when it comes to criteria I am more of a contributions-to-the-game man than a statistician. Calvin would not have the stats that the other two guys boast, though he is only 170 wins away from 5,000 races. And man, has he ever made contributions to the sport! Though he still has good years of fine riding ahead of him, he is no spring chicken. His stats, therefore, are not likely to ever surpass those of Gomez or Velazquez. If Calvin is to get in -- and he really deserves it -- this is the propitious time for him.
Think what he has done. To begin with, he can ride the hair off a horse, he is a first-class human being, and has the finest work ethic a human being could have. Surely, he has more than paid his dues in a dangerous sport, and -- by the way -- he has only won three of the last four Kentucky Derbys! In addition, he has piloted Rachel Alexandra, one of the greatest race mares of all time, as she whipped the hell out of her male counterparts. Calvin, a good old boy from the Cajun Country of Louisiana, has dined -- in white tie and tails -- with the Queen of England and the President of the United States. Through his natural joie de vivre for horsebacking, he has made his name and appealing face synonymous with the good things about racing with the one-time-a-year racing fan. His delightful, natural personality has helped provide some charm for horse racing -- something that is desperately needed.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.