Year Inducted: 2011
When he came up as a 3-year-old in 1998, Mr Ross was believed to be talented but not held in as high regard as others who arrived with him at the barn of trainer Donnie Von Hemel. Owned and bred by Don McNeill of Edmond, Okla., Mr Ross eventually altered the initial thoughts many had about him as he would rival the success and longevity of another McNeill homebred, Clever Trevor.
Mr Ross, named after McNeill’s high school football coach in Thomas, Okla., was unraced as a 2-year-old. He won his career debut on Feb. 8, 1998 at Oaklawn Park by 4-1/2 lengths in a six-furlong maiden-claiming event with a $25,000 price tag. The debut was the only time Mr Ross was available for a claim in his career.
A gelded son of Slewacide from the Dust Commander mare Dusty Donna, Mr Ross would win his second race at Remington Park in July 1998, beating fellow Oklahoma-breds in the Oklahoma Thoroughbred Association Derby. That score and a solid second in the Great West Stakes earned Mr Ross a shot in the Oklahoma Derby (known then as the Remington Park Derby). Mr Ross stayed in contention but eventually flattened out in the stretch, settling for fourth behind Classic Cat. The derby was the only time he ever finished out of the money at Remington Park.
The Oklahoma-bred won three consecutive Oklahoma Classics Cup races in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Mr Ross could also take his act on the road. In 2001 at Oaklawn Park, he nearly swept the Hot Springs, Ark., track’s graded handicap series in winning the Grade 3 Essex, the Grade 3 Razorback and then running second in the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap behind Traditionally. When Mr Ross won the 2002 Maxxum Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, he joined Clever Trevor at that time as the only officially accredited Oklahoma-bred to earn more than $1 million.
Mr Ross won races in four states at four different venues, accumulating four graded stakes scores, all at Oaklawn Park. Nearly half of his earnings, and exactly half of his career wins, came at Remington Park. Extremely versatile, Mr Ross won stakes races both sprinting and around two turns, with career triumphs in races ranging from six furlongs up to 1-1/8 miles, even winning one race over the turf going one mile.
Mr Ross raced more than six years, making 44 starts, winning 18. He was also second another six times with 10 third-place finishes. At Remington Park, he won nine of his 15 attempts, finishing second four times with just one third. His final race at Remington Park was also his final win, the seven-furlong Silver Bullet Centennial Handicap in September 2002. Mr Ross retired to his owner’s farm with total earnings of $1,091,046.