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Tuesday, August 5
Hine, Smith inducted into Hall of Fame




SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Mike Smith followed Jerry Bailey by a few years at the same high school in El Paso, Texas. He later moved to New York and rode against Bailey. On Monday, he joined Bailey as a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. But not before Bailey, who introduced Smith at the ceremonies at Fasig-Tipton's Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion, reversed their usual roles and told a joke at the expense of Smith.

"I remember Mike's first ride," Bailey said. "The horse lurched forward, and Mike fell back. Then the horse went back, and Mike fell forward. He was barely hanging on, until the K-Mart sales manager pulled the plug out."

It was a story Smith, an inveterate joke teller, had planned to tell on Bailey.

"You told my story," Smith said later when thanking Bailey.

There were plenty of good stories to go around Monday morning, when Smith, the late trainer Sonny Hine, and the racehorses Dance Smartly and Precisionist officially became the Hall of Fame class of 2003.

Some of the best stories were told by Bill Nack, the longtime racing writer for Sports Illustrated and author of the newly released memoir "My Turf," whose keynote address reflected his passion for racing and elicited a roar of approval from the packed house. Nack told of how he stumbled into his first racing job, in 1971, by naming from memory the winner of every Kentucky Derby, in chronological order, at an office Christmas party at the newspaper Newsday. For Monday's audience, he recited every winner in the 19th century, just as an example.

Nack said he told an editor he desired a change from politics to racing because "after covering politicians for 4 1/2 years, I'd love the chance to cover the whole horse."

Nack said his favorite quote was uttered by Hall of Fame jockey Ted Atkinson, who after liberally whipping Tom Fool in a winning effort, said, "I was merely trying to impress upon him the urgency of the situation."

Smith, his voice cracking with emotion, said the two retired jockeys he beat out for this year's honor, Eddie Maple and Randy Romero, both provided valuable lessons during his career. He said Maple once scolded him for his attitude, saying, "You have class and talent. Why don't you show it?"

"I never forgot that," Smith said.

Smith said Romero - who was burned in a hot-box fire, was involved in several spills, and recently has had severe trouble with his kidneys - was "an inspiration every time I wanted to give up" while recuperating from a spate of injuries suffered in the late 1990's.

Smith is a two-time Eclipse Award winner and 10-time Breeders' Cup race winner whose top mounts include Azeri, Holy Bull, and Skip Away, all of whom were voted Horse of the Year. He was wide-ranging in thanking family members, trainers, jockeys, valets, jockey agents, and horses he rode. He joked that his outspoken former agent Steve Adika "is the reason I'm standing here. Just ask him."

And he thanked another former agent, Brian Beach, because he "got me back on track" after Smith was injured at Gulfstream Park four years ago.

"Bob Baffert told me on Sunday that I should remember to cry," Smith said. "I told him if I got in trouble, I'd think back to when you took me off Vindication."

Smith nearly forgot to thank trainer Shug McGaughey, whom Smith earlier in his speech alluded to as the one he wanted to save for last. After leaving the podium, Smith returned and said of McGaughey, who trains for the Phipps family, "I honestly believe you made me so much a better rider. When I wore the black silks and cherry cap, it made me feel like Superman."

Hine, who died from cancer in 2000, trained Skip Away and sprint champion Guilty Conscience. But it was his humanity, more than his training, that was fondly recalled by both Carolyn Hine, Sonny's widow, and Steve Haskin, the senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse magazine, who introduced Carolyn Hine.

"When that plaque goes up on the wall, the Hall of Fame will be a much brighter and warmer place," said Haskin, who told several stories about Hine, including peeling off $100 bills to give employees at a barn - even if they had nothing to do with his horse - after a Jockey Club Gold Cup victory by Skip Away.

Carolyn Hine, for whom Skip Away was bought as a birthday present by Sonny, held a framed picture of her late husband while she was at the podium. She referred to Sonny's final months with cancer, when he refused to leave his horses to try experimental treatment, by saying, "He gave his life for the only life he'd ever known.

"My only regret is that Sonny isn't here," she said.

Dance Smartly, a filly who swept the Canadian Triple Crown and won the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 1991, was called "Canada's filly" by Tammy Samuel-Balaz, whose late father, Ernie Samuel, bred and raced Dance Smartly under the family's Sam-Son Farm. Samuel-Balaz was introduced by Ed Bowen, the chairman of the Hall of Fame committee.

Precisionist, who in 1985 swept Santa Anita's Strub Series and later that year won the Breeders' Cup Sprint, was described as a horse who would "win with fire" by Michael Veitch, a National Museum of Racing trustee, who presented the plaque to Wanda Hooper, the widow of Precisionist's late owner and breeder, Fred W. Hooper. Hooper, in a classy gesture, asked Ross Fenstermaker, who trained Precisionist for most of his career, to join her at the podium.

Fenstermaker, in the understatement of the day, called Precisionist "a nice horse." Yes, and the Hall of Fame has some nice horses in it.

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