Saratoga Springs, N.Y., August 15, 2006 — Former jockey Bill Boland was willing, but not quite able to deliver his acceptance speech August 7 when he was inducted in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. The emotion of the moment stopped him cold.
After making a joke about the man who introduced him, his longtime friend Hall of Fame trainer H.Allen Jerkens, and thanking people who pushed for his election, Boland began to get choked up.
“I think I’m going to cry,” he said.
Boland began telling the story of how as a 14-year-old he made a trip by train from Texas to Belmont Park in New York in 1948 with 40 Thoroughbred horses in what was the starting point of a lifetime in racing.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be honored like this,” he said, his voice cracking.
Boland stopped for a few seconds, composed himself, offered a thank-you and walked away from the podium, his speech completed a little earlier than he had planned.
Boland, who won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes during his riding career in the 1950s and 1960s; Carl Hanford, trainer of five-time Horse of the Year Kelso; and Cougar II, a turf champion who was versatile enough to win major stakes on dirt, were formally inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. Ellen Hunt represented her mother, Mary Bradley, the owner of Cougar II, at the induction.
The ceremony to welcome the 51st class of inductees was held at the Fasig-Tipton’s Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion. Tom Durkin, track announcer for the New York Racing Association and the voice of the Breeders’ Cup and the Triple Crown, delivered the keynote speech.
During his speech, Hanford, 90, thanked his family, friends and supporters who helped him, but made it clear that one individual played the most important role in his enshrinement.
“My accomplishments didn’t get me here; Kelso’s did,” he said.
Hanford, Boland and Cougar II were elected by the Historic Review Committee, which considers nominees who have not been active in racing for 25 years. The committee meets in even-numbered years.
None of the 12 finalists in the contemporary racing categories qualified for induction by receiving at least 75 percent of the votes cast.
Hanford, was born and raised in Fairbury, Neb. He was a jockey for about five years in the 1930s before turning to training. He rode the winner of the first race run at Suffolk Downs on July 10, 1935.
In 1939, Hanford began his training career at Charles Town in West Virginia. After serving five years in the Army’s Remount Division during World War II, he resumed training in 1945. Hanford operated a public stable until 1960 when he was hired to manage Allaire du Pont’s stable. Kelso was the lone winner in the group of seven maiden fillies and two geldings.
The Kelso-Hanford partnership reached unprecedented heights, including the half-decade reign as the outstanding Thoroughbred in training. Kelso, considered by many observers as one of the top horses of the 20th century, retired in 1966 after winning 39 of 63 starts. He won the prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup, then run at two miles, five years in a row. His career earnings record of $1,977,896 stood until 1979 when it was broken by Affirmed.
“I am here today because of one horse and one horse only,” Hanford said. “I had a few stakes horses before, but they didn’t compare with Kelso. There is an old saying on the racetrack that a good horse is dangerous in anybody’s hands. How true that is. All of the top trainers of the past have received this honor, but I don’t think anyone of them–and I may be a little bit prejudiced–have ever had their hands on a horse like Kelso.”
Hanford retired as a trainer in 1968 and began a second career as a racing official. He is retired and lives in Wilmington, Del. He noted that Mrs. du Pont and his wife, Millies, had both died in the past year.
“I wish they had been here today to enjoy this with me,” he said. “Maybe they are.”
Boland, 73, was a 16-year-old apprentice when he rode Middleground to victory for King Ranch in the 1950 Kentucky Derby. He was the second apprentice jockey to win the race, following Carl Hanford’s brother, Ira, who rode Bold Venture to victory in 1936. Boland was the youngest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in the 20th century.
The day before Middleground’s Derby victory, Boland won the Kentucky Oaks on Ari’s Mona. Middleground, second in the Preakness after a rough trip, also won the 1950 Belmont Stakes carrying the apprentice rider from Corpus Christi, Texas. He also won another running of the Belmont, on Amberoid, in 1966.
Before retiring as a jockey in 1969 to begin training, Boland won such important races as the Santa Anita Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Acorn, Man o’ War, Metropolitan Handicap, Alabama, Whitney, Wood Memorial, Hawthorne Gold Cup and Hialeah Turf Cup. On Beau Purple, he defeated Kelso three times.
During his career, Boland rode 2,049 winners from 17,233 mounts and had purse earnings of $14,856,095 million. He retired as a trainer in 1988 and spent 10 years as a racing official with the New York Racing Association. He is now retired and lives with his wife Sandra in Palm Coast, Fla.
Bradley purchased the Chilean-bred Cougar II on the advice of her trainer, Hall of Fame member Charlie Whittingham. The son of Tale of Two Cities out of the Madara mare Cindy Lou became the first foreign-bred millionaire in American racing history when he won the Century Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 5, 1973. He completed his career with an overall record of 20-7-17 in 50 starts and purse earnings of $1,162,725. In 38 starts over four seasons in the U.S. he had a record of 15-7-11.
“My mother, Mary Bradley, might be thousands of miles away today, but I can assure you that her heart is here, with Cougar at Saratoga,” Hunt said. “She sends her regrets and also thanks the voters of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for this great honor. Mother always thought that Cougar deserved to have his plaque on these walls with all of the rest of the great Thoroughbreds.”
During his turf championship season in 1972, Cougar II won the Century Handicap, the Californian, the Carlton F. Burke Handicap, and the Oak Tree Invitational and was second in the San Juan Capistrano. On dirt, he was second in the San Pasqual and Santa Anita Handicap and third in the San Antonio. He was a major winner over several years and his triumphs on dirt included the Santa Anita Handicap in 1973.