So much of former jockey Randy Romero's life has been defined by perseverance.
His inclusion in the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame was no different.
On Friday, it was announced that Romero, along with equine stars Azeri, Best Pal, and Point Given would be part of the 2010 class inducted into the Hall of Fame when the ceremony is held on Aug. 13 in Saratoga, N.Y.
Romero and the three horses were elected in the contemporary category by the 182 members of the Hall of Fame's voting panel. The Hall's Historic Review Committee will announce its selections June 9.
This election was the first under the revised format, in which all 10 finalists were grouped together and the top four vote-getters got in.
Voters previously had selected candidates in the categories of contemporary female horses, contemporary male horses, jockeys and trainers.
While the champion mare Azeri gained induction with her first nomination, Romero had been on the ballot seven previous times.
Best known as the regular rider of undefeated champion Personal Ensign and the brilliant filly Go for Wand — both of whom are also in the Hall — Romero won 4,394 races and 122 graded stakes from 1973 to 1999.
"Timing is everything, and I think this year was my time," Romero, 52, said during a teleconference on Friday. "I know it took a long time, but maybe things taste better when they take a long time. Dreams do come true."
Romero's career and life have been filled with as much tragedy as accolades.
Two years after guiding Personal Ensign to her remarkable rally in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff when she caught Winning Colors at the wire to retire undefeated in 13 starts, Romero was aboard Go for Wand when she fatally broke down during her stretch duel with Bayakoa.
In 1983, Romero suffered burns on nearly two-thirds of his body when a light bulb exploded while he was in the "hot box" at Oaklawn Park. The blood transfusions he received during that time probably gave him the hepatitis C virus for which he continues to undergo kidney dialysis treatments.
"I'm in good condition now, and I'm so excited about it, and I can't wait to get there," Romero said.
Owned and campaigned by the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, Azeri won 17 of her 24 races, including 11 Grade I contests. In 2002, the daughter of Jade Hunter won eight of her nine starts, including Grade I victories in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap, Apple Blossom Handicap, Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap and Vanity Handicap, en route to earning Horse of the Year honors.
"She was amazing. It didn't matter if she was dead last or in front. She was just as effective either way," regular rider Mike Smith said. "She was one horse that I never worried if she broke well or not."
Trained by Laura de Seroux and later D. Wayne Lukas, Azeri was named champion older female in 2002, 2003 and 2004 and retired as the all-time leader in earnings among females — since surpassed by Zenyatta — with $4,079,820.
The massive Point Given was named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male in 2001. Trained by Bob Baffert, Point Given finished fifth as the favorite in the 2001 Kentucky Derby but won the Preakness Stakes by 2¼ lengths and the Belmont Stakes by a jaw-dropping 12¼ lengths.
"Point Given was a beast; he just got stronger as we went along," Baffert said of the Three Chimneys stallion before this year's Preakness.
Point Given went on to win the Haskell Invitational and Travers before retiring because of injury with nine wins in 13 starts and earnings of $3,968,500.
Owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Mabee, the durable gelding Best Pal won 18 of his 47 starts and placed in 11 others with career earnings of $5,668,245.
Based in California, Best Pal is one of four horses to win the West Coast's top races: the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Charles H. Strub Stakes.