American Pharoah earned racing immortality last year by winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to earn the Triple Crown. Now the jockey that piloted him to victory–Victor Espinoza–is among ten nominees for the 2016 induction class of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. More so than most years, this is a loaded class of nominees and induction in 2016 is not guaranteed no matter how impressive the resume.
Also nominated are two of the greatest female horses in racing history–Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. Both are on the ballot for the first time and fittingly so–their rivalry continues to be contested by racing fans who still have strong opinions about which of these super fillies (now mares) was the best. Their inextricably woven career will continue, perhaps, with a simultaneous induction into the horse racing hall of fame.
Joining Victor Espinoza, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra on the ballot are seven other finalists–human and equine: Rachel Alexandra’s trainer, Steve Asmussen trainer David Whitely, horses English Channel and Kona Gold and jockeys Garrett Gomez, Ramon Dominguez, Craig Perret. Espinoza is well known as the jockey who rode American Pharoah to the Triple Crown last year.
The impressive class of nominees poses a problem. Only four of the ten nominees will be inducted, at least this year. Here’s how the process works. A 16 member nominating committee determined the ten nominees that we just listed. At this point, they’ll be put to a vote of a 188 member selection committee. According to the Hall of Fame induction rules only the top four vote getters will get the call this year. Voters can choose any combination of horses, trainers and jockeys which actually makes the selection process more difficult and not easier. The results of the balloting will be released on April 12 with the induction ceremonies taking place at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York on August 12.
At this point, there’s no real favorite for who will get in and who won’t. Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra have a good chance but, then again, their supporters are so loyal that they may ‘split the vote’ and neither earn induction.