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Barn Notes: Friday, March 7

IN TODAY'S NOTES: Public Invited to FG's Hall of Fame Ceremonies

There are numerous reasons that fans of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and natives of New Orleans who have always loved the sport of Thoroughbred racing at the Crescent City oval should consider attending Fair Grounds’ Hall of Fame ceremonies this Wednesday evening immediately following the March 12 racing program.

The Black Gold Room of the Derby Building immediately adjacent to the grandstand will be the scene of the gala affair which for a $25 per person ticket will include “heavy” hors d’oeuvres as well as complementary wine.

More importantly, those fans that choose to attend the ceremonies will get the chance to rub elbows and swap stories with some Fair Grounds-based horsemen of yesteryear as well as those of the present era.

For instance, the 2014 Fair Grounds Hall of Fame inductees include now-retired longtime trainer Larry Robideaux Jr, 80, who saddled his first horse at Fair Grounds in 1960 and campaigned a string here every winter until his retirement in 2012.

The highlight of Robideaux’s career came when he saddled Ben Castleman’s My Charmer to win the 1972 Fair Grounds Oaks.  My Charmer went on to be famous as the dam of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. 

“I’ll be joining guys like Hal Bishop and Marion Van Berg,” said Robideaux when informed of his upcoming induction.  “Those were the guys I looked up to when I first came around.”

However, also to be inducted Wednesday evening will be present-day conditioner Bret Calhoun, 49, born in Dallas, Texas, but now a resident of New Orleans. 

Calhoun has been training horses for two decades, and the highlight of his career to date was winning two Breeders’ Cup races in 2010 – the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint with Martin Racing Stable and Dan Morgan’s Dubai Majesty as well as the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Carl Moore’s Chamberlain Bridge.

“Obviously, this is going to be a great honor for me,” said Calhoun when informed of his pending induction.  “When I look at the list of trainers already in there, all I can say is that I’ll be joining some really great people and some really great horsemen.”

Calhoun finished third in the standings during the 2012-2013 Fair Grounds season, behind only co-trainer champions Tom Amoss and Steve Asmussen, both of whom are already in Fair Grounds’ Hall of Fame.

The third inductee at Wednesday’s Hall of Fame ceremonies is a horse – Brereton Jones’s-owned and bred Proud Spell, one of five horses over the last decade to have parlayed a win the Fair Grounds Oaks to another in the Kentucky Oaks a little later in the spring.  Proud Spell accomplished her “Oaks Double” in 2008.

“We were absolutely ecstatic when they told us,” said Proud Spell’s trainer Larry Jones when asked about his and his wife Cindy’s reaction.  “When we called ‘Brere’ and told him and (wife) Libby they were just tickled pink.  They were really excited.”

Brereton Jones, who served as Kentucky’s 58th Governor from 1991 to 1995 and now chairs the Kentucky Equine Education Project on behalf of the Kentucky horse industry, will be on hand at Fair Grounds’ Hall of Fame ceremonies to accept on behalf of Proud Spell, as will his trainer Larry Jones.

Wednesday’s ceremonies will also serve as the induction ceremony for three new members of Fair Grounds’ Press Box Hall of Fame – retired chart caller A. J. Paretti, still-active track photographer Lou Hodges Jr, and videographer Glenn Gremillion, who oversaw Fair Grounds’ television department for more than three decades.   All three are natives of New Orleans.

They will be joining such Press Box Hall of Fame legends as the Times-Picayune’s still-active sports editor Peter Finney, WWL’s late sports director “Buddy” Diliberto, and Daily Racing Form’s late legendary columnists Joe Hirsch, Teddy Cox and Bill Phillips as well as its revered late chart-caller Don Fair.

Wednesday’s ceremonies can be expected to be concluded at approximately 7 p.m.