Interactif’s thrilling finish over Grand Rapport in the grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga Friday was a fitting tribute to the 2010 class of inductees. The 3-year-old Todd Pletcher trainee made his first trip to the winner’s circle this year while holding off the late charge of the runner-up after battling third-place finisher Krypton throughout the stretch. While the effort will certainly not qualify Interactif for Hall of Fame induction, the victory was a fitting tribute.
Among the 2010 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame inductees are thoroughbreds Azeri, Point Given, Best Pal and Harry Bassett; jockeys Randy Romero and Donald Pierce; and Michael Millerick the trainer of Native Diver, 53 other stakes winners and the winners of 1,886 races.
Certainly all are deserving of the Hall of Fame notoriety, but among this year’s class, Azeri is the standout as the only “first ballot” inductee in the group.
Retired as the richest female in North American history with just more than $4 million in earnings, (since passed by Zenyatta with more than $6.2 million), Azeri won 17 of 24 career races including eleven grade 1 events. She won the grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park three consecutive years from 2002-04 and won several graded races multiple times including the Milady, Vanity and Clement L. Hirsch.
She won 2002 Breeders’ Cup Distaff in the middle of an eleven-race streak of victories against graded competition, was named the Horse of the Year in 2002 and Champion Older Filly or Mare three times.
Azeri was trained by Laura de Saroux during her first 16 races but was transferred to the barn of D. Wayne Lukas for her 2004 campaign. Lukas tried Azeri twice against males finishing eighth in the Metropolitan Handicap and fifth to Ghostzapper in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But she never raced outside of grade 1 company that year winning the Personal Ensign and Go For Wand in New York and of course her three-peat in the Apple Blossom in Arkansas.
Home-bred by Allan Paulson and later owned by his living trust after his passing, Azeri was the daughter of Jade Hunter, a less than spectacular son of Mr. Prospector. When she retired after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, there was little doubt she had produced one of the greatest campaigns by a female in racing history. She was the wagering favorite in 17 of her races and the odd-on choice in 15 of those. She only finished worse than second three times with two of those race coming against males.
She was a dominant runner during her era and rightfully mentioned among some of the best fillies and mares ever to race. And that’s why she was elected on the first ballot.