October 24, 2021

Gio Ponti, Goldikova among 11 Hall of Fame finalists

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced the 11 finalists on this year’s ballot for induction. The list includes three Thoroughbreds, three trainers and five jockeys.

Gio Ponti, an earner of more than $6.1 million, was voted champion turf male in 2009 and 2010, as well as champion older male in 2009. Trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti’s major wins included the Arlington Million (G1), Manhattan (G1), Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), and two editions each of the Man o’ War (G1) and Shadwell Turf Mile (G1).

Based in France with trainer Freddy Head, Goldikova was a three-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and finished a close third when seeking a fourth consecutive win in 2011. She was voted champion turf mare in 2009 and 2010, and earned more than $7.1 million while claiming an additional 11 Group 1 wins in France and England.

Kona Gold, an earner of nearly $2.3 million, was an 11-time stakes winner who was voted champion sprinter in 2000 off a signature victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) for trainer Bruce Headley.

The trainer nominees are Mark Casse, John Shirreffs, and David Whiteley.

Casse, an eight-time Sovereign Award winner as outstanding trainer in Canada, has won five Canadian classics and has been represented by dual champion turf mare Tepin and 2016 champion juvenile colt Classic Empire.

The California-based Shirreffs’ most notable trainees include the once-beaten super mare Zenyatta and 2005 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Giacomo.

Whiteley, a son of Hall of Fame trainer Frank Whiteley, made his mark with filly champions Revidere (1976), Waya (1979), and Just a Game II (1980), and also conditioned 1979 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Coastal.

The jockey nominees are Robby Albarado, Javier Castellano, Victor Espinoza, Garrett Gomez, and Craig Perret.

A winner of more than 5,000 races, Albarado was the regular rider for Horses of the Year Mineshaft (2003) and Curlin (2007-08).

Castellano has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey the past four years with mount earnings of more than $272 million during his 20-year career. His leading mounts include 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, and champion Preakness (G1) winner Bernardini.

Victor Espinoza rode American Pharoah to his 2015 Triple Crown sweep and was also the regular rider for the recently retired California Chrome, a dual classic winner and Horse of the Year.

Gomez, who passed away in late 2016, won 3,769 races with mount earnings of more than $200 million. A two-time Eclipse Award winner, he won 13 Breeders’ Cup races.

Perret won more than 4,400 races and the 1990 Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey. He rode Bet Twice (1987 Belmont Stakes) and Unbridled (1990 Kentucky Derby) to classic wins, and was noted for riding champion sprinters, Eillo, Safely Kept, Housebuster, and Smoke Glacken.