Solis greeted with standing ovation at Hall of Fame induction
As he walked to the podium to accept his induction into the Hall of Fame late Friday morning, jockey Alex Solis was greeted with a standing ovation from a packed house at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion.
Based this summer at Saratoga, Solis has won 4,991 races, 321 graded stakes and more than $256 million in purses in a career that began when he left his native Panama for Florida in 1982. Three years later, he moved to Southern California where he rose to prominence on the back of Snow Chief, winner of the Preakness and champion three-year-old male of 1986.
"It's really amazing," Solis said. "I am honored to be here. It's something I never dreamed would happen in my life.
"I want to thank God for making me this size. If I had been a little taller, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant might have been in trouble."
Solis was introduced by fellow Hall of Famers Laffit Pincay Jr. and Chris McCarron, his rivals and friends from California. Like Solis, Pincay, who retired as the all-time leader in races won and now sits third with 9,530, is from Panama.
"I met Alex when he came to California from Miami about a hundred years ago," Pincay said. "He said he always wanted to meet me. He was always asking me questions. I felt like I was putting the rope around my neck because he kept winning and winning. It's a well-deserved honor and something that had been coming for a long time."
Over the course of his career Solis has won 83 Grade 1 stakes, the most recent coming in the Spinaway at Saratoga last summer with Sweet Reason. Others in New York included the 2011 Jockey Club Gold Cup, 2010 Forego, 2006 Acorn, 2004 Metropolitan and Carter handicaps and 2002 Manhattan.
"He's always been passionate about his occupation and always been passionate about the game," McCarron said. "I admire his work ethic, dedication and the way he rides and conducts himself. I'm privileged to call him my friend."
Solis delivered an emotional and heartfelt speech, thanking his family, friends, trainers, owners, trainers, agents and horses for helping him land Thoroughbred racing's ultimate honor.
The Hall of Fame Class of 2014 also comprised trainer Gary Jones; contemporary horses Curlin and Ashado; 19th-century jockey Lloyd Hughes and the stalwart 1890s campaigner Clifford; and "Pillars of the Turf" Col. E.R. Bradley and E.P. Taylor. There was also a tribute to retiring NYRA track announcer Tom Durkin.
Friday's inductees were joined by 20 living Hall of Famers in jockeys Ron Turcotte, Eddie Maple, McCarron, Randy Romero, Earlie Fires, Angel Cordero, Jr., Pincay, John Velazquez, Jacinto Vasquez, Jose Santos, Manny Ycaza, Edgar Prado and Jorge Velasquez and trainers Bill Mott, John Veitch, D. Wayne Lukas, Roger Attfield, Janet Elliott and Shug McGaughey.
"I left Panama 30-some years ago with $700 and big dreams of being somebody," Solis said. "I am here today living something that you only dream about."
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