The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has cleared the way for retired jockey Ramon Dominguez, who won 1,010 races in Maryland, to be eligible for the Hall of Fame this year.
A three-time Eclipse Award winner, Dominguez was injured and forced to end his career in 2013, but can be considered for the Hall of Fame even though he hasn't been retired for the required five years.
The Hall's executive committee said Wednesday in a news release that it can waive the five-year retirement rule "at its discretion based on special circumstances."
Also, the committee said Dominguez would have been eligible this year if he had continued riding based on another requirement — 20 years riding since being licensed in North America. He started in 1996.
Dominguez was a special rider, among the most popular riders and an ambassador for the sport. Although he never won a Triple Crown race, he chalked up nearly 5,000 victories and earned more than $190 million in purses. He led the nation in earnings three times and in wins two times.
Among the horses he won with were 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti and 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor (a win in the 2006 Pimlico Special).
The nominating committee meets later this month to select finalists for the Hall of Fame. Expected nominees include Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta and jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Here are some of things to know about Dominguez:
On Jan. 18, 2013, at Aqueduct, Dominguez suffered what was termed a "traumatic brain injury" when his mount, Convocation, clipped heels with another horse and unseated the rider, who was then kicked by a trailing horse. Dominguez spent three weeks in three hospitals before his release in early February 2013. He has recovered, but retired from riding rather than risk another injury.
Before he was injured, Dominguez was the nation's top rider. He had won three straight Eclipse Awards from 2010-2012. He also set a single-season earnings record in 2012 with $25.6 million — later surpassed by Javier Castellano.
TRIPLE CROWN RACES
Although he never won one, he finished second in the Kentucky Derby with Bluegrass Cat in 2006; second in the Preakness two times, with Scrappy T in 2005 and First Dude in 2010; and third in the Belmont Stakes with First Dude in 2010. In the 2005 Preakness, Scrappy T nearly knocked eventual winner Afleet Alex to his knees when the field turned for home.
In his 18-year career, Dominguez won 4,985 races from 21,267 starts for a better-than-average winning rate of 23 percent. He finished second 3,855 times and third 3,160. He totaled $191,620,278 in purse earnings.
He won three Breeders' Cup races — the 2004 Turf with Better Talk Now, the 2011 Juvenile with Hansen and the 2012 Turf with Little Mike. He also won the 2004 Wood Memorial with Tapit; the 2010 Jockey Club Gold Cup with Haynesfield; the 2011 Beldame, Woodward and Apple Blossom with Havre de Grace; the 2010 and 2011 Shadwell Turf Mile, 2009 and 2010 Man `o War and the 2009 Arlington Million with Gio Ponti; the 2012 Travers with Alpha (dead heat with Golden Ticket); and the 2012 Cigar Mile with Stay Thirsty.