December 5, 2023

Arrogate, California Chrome, Songbird named first-ballot Hall of Famers

Arrogate with Mike Smith up catches California Chrome at the wire to win the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park (Carlos Delgado/

Champions Arrogate, California Chrome, and Songbird have been voted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, it was announced Tuesday. Jockey Corey Nakatani was also elected as a contemporary figure, and fellow reinsman Fernando Toro will join him in the Hall via the Historic Review Committee. John W. Hanes II, Leonard Jerome, and Stella F. Thayer will be enshrined as Pillars of the Turf.

Arrogate ranks as North America’s all-time top earner with a bankroll of $17,422,600, amassed in whirlwind fashion in just several months of peak form in 2016-2017. After a record-setting Travers (G1) romp at Saratoga, the Bob Baffert trainee collared California Chrome in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita, and clinched champion three-year-old male honors. Arrogate rolled in track-record time in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park and recovered from a disastrous start to beat Gun Runner in the Dubai World Cup (G1). The Juddmonte Farms colorbearer ultimately retired with a record of 11-7-1-1, and sadly died as a young stallion at the age of seven.

California Chrome, the previous earnings record-holder with $14,752,650, reigned as Horse of the Year twice, on the strength of his dual classic-winning campaign in 2014 and again after a renaissance in 2016. Trained throughout his career by Art Sherman, the California-bred captured the 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness (G1), Santa Anita Derby (G1), and Hollywood Derby (G1) on turf for owner-breeders Perry Martin and Steve Coburn. Taylor Made Farm later acquired Coburn’s interest, and California Chrome was back on song in 2016 with major wins in the Dubai World Cup, Pacific Classic (G1), and Awesome Again (G1). A four-time Eclipse Award winner, as champion three-year-old male and older dirt male in addition to his Horse of the Year trophies, he now stands at Arrow Stud in Japan.

Songbird, the champion two-year-old and three-year-old filly of 2015 and 2016 respectively, compiled a stellar mark of 15-13-2-0, $4,692,000, for Fox Hill Farms. The Jerry Hollendorfer runner was unbeaten through her first 11 starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Alabama (G1), and Cotillion (G1). Songbird sustained her first loss, in an excruciatingly tight photo, to fellow Hall of Famer Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). In a four-year-old campaign curtailed by injury, she added two more big prizes in the Ogden Phipps (G1) and Delaware H. (G1) before a neck loss in the Personal Ensign (G1), her final start. She is now a broodmare for Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, which purchased her for $9.5 million at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November Sale.

Nakatani, 52, scored 10 Breeders’ Cup victories among his 3,909 career wins. Fellow Hall of Famers Lava Man and Serena’s Song were among his best mounts, along with such champions a Shared Belief, Sweet Catomine, and My Miss Aurelia. Riding for 30 years, from 1988-2018, Nakatani guided his mounts to earnings of $234,554,534 to put him 14th on the all-time list.

Toro, 82, enjoyed success in his homeland of Chile before becoming a mainstay on the Southern California circuit. He was the regular rider of Hall of Famer Royal Heroine, who concluded her career with a record-setting Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in the 1984 inaugural, and champion Estrapade, who likewise toppled males in the 1986 Arlington Million (G1) and Oak Tree Invitational (G1).

Thayer, 82, is the president of Tampa Bay Downs as well as the past president of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (2005-14). Jerome (1818-1891), the grandfather of Winston Churchill, was a major figure in New York racing, as was Hanes (1892-1987), who served in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Administration.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set for Aug. 4 at 10:30 a.m. (ET) at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs. The event is free and open to the public, and you can also watch online at