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Racing into the Hall of Fame

Legends aren’t born—they’re made through careful cultivation, dedication to a dream and the perseverance to move forward, standing out against the crowd as they march to a drum beat all their own. Honored as part of APHA’s second class of 10 Hall of Fame inductees are six racing pioneers whose impact on APHA is extraordinary.

Breaking fast from the gate and thundering down the track, a fleet-footed horse is vital to success on the racetrack. But equally important are those savvy horsemen who can pick out a diamond in the rough, and those great sires and dams who pass their legacy of speed to the next generation.

Walter Merrick remains a racetrack legend, a horseman with something of a sixth-sense when it came to fast horses. Focusing his attention on the track in 1936, Walter’s stable expanded to include Paints in the 1950s. The recipient of the first Paul Harber Racing Distinguished Service Award in 2005, Walter still ranks fifth on APHA’s Lifetime Leading Breeders List.

Indian Music was one of many top-notch products of Walter’s breeding program, and she proved herself in spades. A broodmare by trade, Indian Music produced 14 foals who impressively earned more than one-hundred-and-two thousand dollars. Among her top foals were World Champion Cherokee Indian and Million Dollar Sire Easy Jet Too.

Having already purchased several horses from Walter Merrick, it was a handshake deal for half-interest in Easy Jet Too that truly launched Virdin Royse into notoriety. Dedicated to helping the Paint racing industry prosper, Virdin developed the Pot-O-Gold Futurity and served on the Racing Committee for 17 years. He was honored with APHA’s Distinguished Service Award in humble appreciation of more than 40 years of association involvement.

Sky Bar, the dam of 10 foals including Sky Top Bar, created a legacy as a top broodmare. Bred by Ralph Gardiner and owned by Paul Harber, the 1961 chestnut tobiano mare produced 10 foals, including the tobiano stallions Powder Charge, By Jingo, Sky Top Bar and Million Heir. They helped carry the blood of Sky Bar and notable ancestors Babette and Painted Joe into a new generation of Paint performers.

One of Sky Bar’s most prolific sons was Sky Top Bar, a 1967 bay tobiano bred by Paul Harber and owned by Ray Graves. Royally bred, “Sky” was a stakes winner but made an even bigger impact as a sire. About half of his foals hit the track, earning nearly $200,000. And more left their mark in the show ring, including Supreme Champion Sky Bug Bingo.

With dreams of becoming a cowboy, Ray Graves was first a roper before the allure of the racetrack caught his attention. A breeder and trainer of several top racehorses, Ray also helped found the Paint Stallion Breeders Association. Always willing to speak his mind, Ray has been a longtime national director and valued member of the Racing Committee since 1968, and he received the Paul Harber Racing Distinguished Service Award in 2011.

Other inductees included in the 2013 APHA Hall of Fame class are:

–       Ed Roberts

–       Wanda Williams

–       Colonels Smokingun

–       Dixie’s War Drum

The Hall of Fame was introduced in 2012 as a way to celebrate APHA’s 50th anniversary and commemorate the breed’s colorful history. A five-member Hall of Fame Selection Committee led by Chairman John Hertner selected the inductees out of hundreds of nominees who meet induction criteria. Read more detailed biographies about these honored history makers in the February 2014 Paint Horse Journal—subscribe or renew online.

Celebrate the men, women and Paint Horses honored as 2013 APHA Hall of Fame inductees during a spe­cial induction ceremony on February 23. Taking place during the APHA Convention, the celebration is from 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the Westin DFW hotel in Irving, Texas. Cost is $70 per person if not pre-registered, and a sit-down dinner is included. For more information, con­tact Theresa Brown at (817) 222-6403.