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Barn Notes: Thursday, March 13
IN TODAY'S NOTES: Three Added to Fair Grounds Hall of Fame; Proud Spell, Trainers Larry Robideaux Jr, Bret Calhoun Inducted; Trio of Native New Orleanians Join FG's Press Box Hall of Fame
More than a half-century of history at the nation’s third oldest racecourse was remembered fondly Wednesday evening at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots when ceremonies honoring two locally-based trainers and a locally-trained filly, all of whom went on to national prominence, were inducted into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame.
Brereton Jones’s Proud Spell, one of five of the last nine Fair Grounds Oaks winners who parlayed that score to another in the Kentucky Oaks weeks later in the spring, was inducted into the local hall along with octogenarian retired conditioner Larry Robideaux Jr. and the still very active New Orleans-based trainer Bret Calhoun.
Robideaux, 80, born in Iowa, Louisiana, saddled his first horse at Fair Grounds in 1961 and retired in 2012, and Calhoun, 49, born in Dallas, Texas, but now a Crescent City resident, is presently known mostly for saddling the winners of two Breeders’ Cup races in 2010.
Accepting on behalf former Kentucky governor Brereton Jones, owner and breeder of Proud Spell, was Proud Spell’s trainer Larry Jones.
“Proud Spell had such perseverance,” Jones said. ”She always gave her all. I’ve always said you can learn as much about what makes good character from a horse as you can from other people,” Jones said, “and Proud Spell was the perfect example of that.
“Proud Spell was very special to me, to my family and to my team,” Jones, “and I’m glad she was special to all of you who have put her in the Hall of Fame tonight here at Fair Grounds.”
Robideaux, who saddled 1,963 career winners in his career – including Ben Castleman’s My Charmer (later the dam of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew) and John Bell’s Honest and True (later the dam of Bell’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Epitome)to win the Fair Grounds Oaks respectively in 1972 and 1980, thanked his wife Brenda for putting up with him for 54 years.
“Churchill Downs (Incorporated) is the fifth operator of Fair Grounds since I’ve been around,” said Robideaux, “and when I came around trainers like O. D. Clelland, Hal Bishop and Marion Van Berg were already here. I consider it a great honor to be joining guys like those in this Hall of Fame and I sincerely want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone responsible.”
Bret Calhoun, with two decades of his own young career behind him, said it was a great honor to become associated with so many great people already in the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame. Specifically, he thanked both of his parents for sticking by him during those first lean years before he started recording 200-plus wins a season.
“I still hear from my parents after every race to give me their opinion of how my horse performed,” Calhoun said, “but I also get great help from everyone on my team – guys like ‘Peaches’ Geier and Tom Morgan. Without all of them, there would be no Calhoun Racing.”
TRIO OF NEW ORLEANIANS JOIN FG’S PRESS BOX HALL OF FAME —New Orleans natives Glenn Gremillion, who started with the Fair Grounds television department in 1972; A. J. Paretti, who began his Fair Grounds career as a chart caller in 1991 for Daily Racing Form; and track photographer Lou Hodges Jr, who joined his track photographer-father in a professional capacity in 1976; joined the Fair Grounds Press Box Hall of Fame during the same Wednesday evening ceremonies.
“I thank God for giving me my talent (in television production) but I also thank God for the majesty of the horse,” videographer Gremillion said. “If it wasn’t for the horse, none of us would be in this room tonight.”
Chart caller A. J. Paretti expressed similar sentiments.
“I’m humbled and honored to be tonight,” said Paretti. “I feel lucky to have been born and raised in New Orleans, and I couldn’t have had a better job. It was a job I loved, and I got paid for doing something I loved.”
Track photographer Hodges had a unique reason to be pleased with his induction.
“I’m especially pleased to be joining my father in the Press Box Hall of Fame,” Hodges said. “I’m also proud to have trained two assistants (Lynn Roberts and Jamie Hernandez) to win Eclipse Awards. Meanwhile, (veteran assistant) Alex Barkoff and I are both still waiting and hoping for ours.”