This year’s thoroughbred class of Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductees includes a jockey, trainer, builder, communicator and a Kentucky Derby winner with a Canadian connection.

Stewart Elliott – Jockey

Stewart Elliott chuckled a little as he talked about riding Smarty Jones to victory in the 2004 Kentucky Derby at legendary Churchill Downs, as if he still does not believe it happened.

“Winning the Kentucky Derby… well, it was unexplainable,” said Elliott just before his induction into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

“There have been a lot of good moments, good years, also a lot of tough years. This is not an easy game, but when you get to win a Derby, you appreciate it.”

The Toronto-born 50-year-old was the first jockey in 25 years to win the Kentucky Derby in his first appearance when he guided speedy Smarty Jones to victory over 17 contenders over a sloppy track in front of 120,000 racing fans. Smarty Jones became the first undefeated horse since Seattle Slew in 1977 to win the Kentucky Derby.

When Elliott and Smarty Jones romped by 11 1/2 lengths in the Preakness Stakes, the expectations of a Triple Crown winner, the first in more than 30 years, were high.

But Smarty Jones and Elliott were caught in the last few strides of the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes by longshot Birdstone in a heartbreaking defeat.

His exploits with Smarty Jones thrust Elliott into the national spotlight but he has always been a well-known name in Pennsylvania where he has done most of his riding. He won his first career race at Keystone Park, later known as Philadelphia Park and now known as Parx Racing.

Elliott, whose father Dennis rode in Ontario, has also done some riding in his home province on occasion and in 2009 won the Woodbine Oaks on Milwaukee Appeal for Eugene George’s C.E. C. Stable. In 2010, he was presented with the Avelino Gomez Award for contributions and sportsmanship in the industry by a Canadian born or
based jockey.

Through 2014, Elliott rode the winners of 4,650 races. He retired from riding in November and now works for a hunting outfitter company.

Roger Laurin – Trainer

The name Laurin will forever be associated with some of the most famous racehorses in American history. It was Roger Laurin, in fact, who talked his father Lucien into coming out of retirement in 1971 to train some horses for Penny Chenery’s Meadow Stable in Virginia. While the younger Laurin began training for Ogden Mills Phipps and had prepared the Meadow Stables runners heading into ‘71, his father did indeed take over the string. Among the horses he developed were Riva Ridge and none other than Secretariat.

Roger Laurin, born in Montreal in 1935, has molded and conditioned some of his own top runners. He was enlisted to train the stable of Harry Guggenheim, the Cain Hoy Stable, in the early 1960s and had immediate success.

“I had a horse back then, Captain’s Gig, who won the Futurity [at Aqueduct],” said Laurin. I was very pleased with that and I thought that was one of my major achievements.”

There are so many others, such as the top filly Drumtop winner of the 1970 Canadian International Championship over older males. In 1971, he had the champion filly Numbered Account in his care for the Phipps family.

Laurin got his ‘once in a lifetime’ horse in 1982 when Carl Rosen’s homebred colt Chief’s Crown, a son of Danzig, entered his life. Chief’s Crown won the first Breeders’ Cup race, the 1984 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, went on to place in all three American Triple Crown races and to win the Travers and Marlboro Gold Cup as a four-year-old in 1986.

Laurin retired from big-stable training when Chief’s Crown was retired to stud. He did not start a horse from 1985 through 1989 and had only a couple of dozen starters in the early 1990s. He left training completely again in 1995 to focus on breeding, but has been back as a trainer since 2006. He won three races in 2015 and has 688 victories in his career.

“I am just happy people go far back enough to see some of the good horses I had,” said Laurin with a laugh. “I am thankful.”

Jim Bannon – Communicator

His job may be to help horse racing fans and visitors to look ahead and project how a horse is going to perform on any particular day, but Jim Bannon knows that it is just as important to look back, especially when you are being honoured by your peers.

Bannon began working at Woodbine in the stable area in 1965 and soon gravitated to thoroughbred handicapping, following his father James who later joined his son with selections in the daily Jim Bannon Journal under the name ‘Abernathy.’ The Journal is in its 43rd year.

The younger Bannon wrote columns for magazines on picking winners and joined horseracing broadcasting in the 1980s. He won a Gemini Award in 2010 for best sports analyst for his work on Queen’s Plate broadcasts. He has also been a leader of Woodbine’s Chaplaincy program since the late 1980s.

A longtime student of morning workouts, Bannon can be found in the grandstand very early every morning, analyzing and recording every horse’s moves as they prepare for races.

At the Hall of fame induction ceremony, Bannon recounted an important moment in his racetrack life.

“I was seven years old and my grandmother took me down to Greenwood Racetrack,” he began. “She held my hand as the horses came out of the gate. I got a picture that I would have all my life; the yelling, horses thrusting, the screaming. She looked down at me as if to say, ‘did you get that?’ and I got it. I still have it 60 years later.

“It’s on an evening like this that you look back; look back at your roots and those who helped you get where you are and were influential in your life. This is when you recall the menial jobs you had on your path; walking horses, holding horses in ice, holding a horse for the blacksmith. I am very grateful for all those who have helped along the way.”

Robert Anderson – Builder

Bob Anderson’s Anderson Farms in St. Thomas has been one of the most successful and important breeding farms in Ontario for 40 years. Anderson’s list of horses bred includes dozens of the best Canadian-breds in modern history including Alydeed, Triple Wow, Bounding Away, Larkwhistle, Prince Avatar, Fifty Proof and Pinafore Park. He bred Ascot Knight, a $1.4 million yearling in 1985 who went on to become one of Canada’s top sires.

In 1985, Anderson Farms was the leading consignor at Saratoga and Keeneland yearling sales. For more than 41 years before his death Anderson did exactly what he wanted to do for a living. It was something he predicted when he was very young. “I went to Wellington Street School and I remember one day in Grade 5 a teacher asked everybody what they wanted to do, and I said I wanted to raise horses and sell them,” he once said.

In 2000, Anderson Farms became involved in standardbred racing and immediately found success with such champions as Pampered Princess, who earned $1.7 million, Southwind Allaire, Cabrini Hanover, who earned close to $1.5 million, and The Pres. It is estimated Anderson Farms was the birthplace of some 1,400 horses.

Anderson was a complete horseman, delving into every facet of the game. He was a director of the Ontario Jockey Club (now Woodbine Entertainment Group) for 25 years, president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, director of the Hambletonian Society, board member of The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, a member of The Jockey Club of Canada and the Ontario Racing Commission. He was also the first chairman of the Guelph Equine Centre for Equine Research and a member of the E.P. Taylor Equine Research Fund.

His son David, who continues to operate Anderson farms, accepted the induction ring on his late father’s behalf. “He was the guy you wanted to have on your team. I always said: stand behind him or stand beside him; but don’t ever stand in front of him.”

Mine that Bird – Horse

There was not much indication when Mine that Bird debuted at Woodbine in July, 2008, that he was going to go on and be the folk hero that he became. A $9,500 yearling purchase in Kentucky by trainer Dave Cotey, Mine that Bird was beaten almost 10 lengths in his debut. But the son of Birdstone would not lose another race at Woodbine and he was honoured as Canada’s champion two-year-old male.

Cotey and his partners Derek Ball and Hugh Galbreath sold the gelding to Double Eagle Ranch at the end of his juvenile campaign and watched him make a few starts from California to New Mexico before he pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Kentucky Derby history in May 2009.

A 50-1 longshot, Mine that Bird galloped from 19th place to win going away by six lengths and paying $103.20, the second-largest payoff in Derby history. He was just the second gelding to win the Derby since 1929.

Bred in Kentucky by Toronto’s Peter Lamantia and partners Jim Blackburn of Chicago, and Kentucky horsemen Phil Needham and Bill Betz, Mine That Bird is the subject of a film entitled “50-1,” which documents the horse’s career leading up to the Derby.