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Happy Birthday, Native Dancer!
Category: Member Blogs
Tags: thoroughbred horseracing native dancer

 

Native Dancer played a fundamental part in the improvement of the Thoroughbred breed, and is also responsible for bringing many fans into horseracing, including myself.  Since I began researching this sport, Native Dancer was the first racehorse that sparked a great fire within me to learn more.  Though I have learned about so many incredible horses, Native Dancer holds a special place in my heart.  Not only is he the great-great grandsire of my beloved Polka, but also his accomplishments are among the most impressive.  Today marks sixty-one years since the birth of this racing icon, and I felt strongly about devoting an article to the Grey Ghost of Sagamore Farm.  The story I would like to share on this special day is unquestionably one of the greatest moments in all of horseracing…

The sun was setting in New York on a warm September evening in 1952.  Belmont Park’s grandstand had the capacity of 17,500, but on that Saturday, it flooded with over 40,000 spectators, waiting to get a look at The Dancer.  The jam-packed grandstand cast a shadow over the lengthy racecourse, notorious for being the largest in America. 

Thousands more tuned in on their black and white televisions to see this national star. They all wanted to see the sixth race on the card: the Futurity Stakes, for two year olds going 6 ½ furlongs on the Widener Straight that cut across the main track.  On an oval track, it is very clear to the riders where the ½ mile mark is, but on the Widener Straight it was much more difficult to determine, adding additional challenges for some jockeys, causing them to move their horses prematurely.

In the paddock area, masses of people rubbed elbows with one another, yelling out praise to the horse they had come to see.  Lines at betting windows weaved through the colossal crowd, knocking down Native Dancer’s odds to 7-20.  It did not stop people from purchasing these “keepsake” tickets that would only pay a meager thirty-five cents for each one dollar bet. 

Even fans watching The Dancer on their fuzzy televisions could spot him in a crowd with his bold white face and striking grey coat. His undefeated long legs made for an incomparable stride.   

Native Dancer, sandwiched between his grooms Harold Walker, and Les Murray, walked through the paddock. His owner, Alfred Vanderbilt, Jr.; trainer Bill Winfrey, and Eric Guerin, his jockey, watched the leading juvenile move past the crowds.  The additional horses in the field were scarcely given any acknowledgement, for they would act only as the background, like the trees or the grandstand.  These young colts were the strongest in the nation, but plenty had already fallen in defeat to The Dancer.  There was Tiger Skin, who was sired by champion sprinter Polynesian (also the sire of Native Dancer), and he went unvanquished until the Hopeful Stakes, where he endeavored to test The Dancer.  Little Request never challenged Native Dancer, for he was a Californian invader who was anticipated to make the pace.  Dark Star was an auspicious colt from the Cain Hoy Stable.  Tahitian King, another Polynesian two-year-old, was crushed by the big grey three times.

 After giving Guerin a leg up onto The Dancer, Winfrey contributed his only words of guidance, “Ride him with confidence.”

As horses loaded into their gates, the crowd buzzed excitedly, sending a roar into the air at the ring of the starting bell.  The crowd strained to listen to Fred Caposella’s call, anticipating any mention of The Dancer.  Little Request tore down the track, making a rushed pace of: 46 2/5 for the half, with the big grey colt settling in five lengths behind.

With ears pinned back and his enormous stride extending, Guerin loosened the reins to let The Dancer run for the lead.  At that precise moment, Eddie Arcaro on Tahitian King shot to the lead through a hole on the rail.  His mount was so powerful that the crowd screamed in surprise. 

Little Request was losing steam in front of The Dancer, and also being trapped with horses on both sides, Guerin was well aware of the difficult position, and that he would have to respond promptly.  But fortunately, Guerin had the coolest head on the racing circuit.  Little Request began to drift to the right, giving The Dancer the opportunity to stretch those legs.

Guerin yelled to the colt to “move on”.  This was the moment the race entered another dimension.  Tahitian King looked as though he was comfortably pulling ahead for the win, and two-time Triple Crown winning jockey, Arcaro, had the race in hand. Without Guerin even tapping Native Dancer’s shoulder, his mount went from a reserved fourth position to first in just five astounding strides. Tahitian King and his legendary rider just became background.  The Dancer crossed the finish line 2 ½ lengths ahead of Tahitian King who finished nine lengths ahead of the rest.  Later, spectators said The Dancer’s stride was so commanding they could see the bottom of his hooves midstride.  

It was a true “shock and awe” moment for the crowds as they cheered The Dancer as he was led into the winner’s circle for the seventh time.  Energizing the crowd even more was when they saw the winning time: 1:14 2/5-equalling the world record set fifteen years earlier by Porter’s Mile, who was carrying three pounds less.  Guerin was emotional after the landslide triumph, “I’m sure he would have broken the record if we hadn’t been fighting the headwind the whole way.” He told the reporters. “I don’t believe I have ever ridden a better horse.”

Arcaro, shaking his head, was swarmed by reporters afterward, “I thought I had it won until that grey horse just smothered us.”

~~~~~~~

On my blog, I will be starting a series on Native Dancer.  Some stories will be about his life as a horse, while others will be about his professional career as an athlete. I think it is very important to educate the new generation of horseracing enthusiasts on Native Dancer, because he was such an influential horse both on the track and as a stud.

You can read my blog, Bits N' Bunny, at:  http://bitsnbunny.blogspot.com/


 

Blog?:o
Category: Member Blogs

     This website has opened so many things for myself. It is such a great learning oportunity.Im more of a hands on learner,but this is still amazing information that I probably would never be able to get my hands on from inside my home.It is really hard to get my head around the fact that my family is having a hard time understanding that being a jockey is a heart set job for myself.My own dad included.So it's nice to be able to get on her and read about all the things that interest me ext.This seems like the best job for me to be able to continue my life with horses(being that speed and power is what I ache forxD).

    I have been riding for a good 5 going on 6 years now.It has taught me so much.Life lessons,and physical abilities also.As we all know its very expensive also xD So a big life lesson:Money managment.:P I love being able to learn more and more about the sport/different disaplines.It's all so interesting.Blood lines are also interesting,because even if your horse has amazing blood lines you never know what you got until you start working with it.Just like it the movie Ruffian when the actor that plays Frank Whitley states 'You never know.Man O' War's half brother pulled a milk cart.'xD Anywhoo enough of my rambling.Have a nice day!

What it takes to be in the racing business

While at work today someone had asked me what I do when it comes to exercising and where I go, or where do I live while working at a race track. I told them while working at a race track at canterbury last year I was living in the dorms above the horse barn, so basically your sleeping with the horses and the dorm was all cememnt, had one window, no tvs you had to buy dish! Also they asked what about food. I then explained to them that we either had our pots to cook food or you went to the kitchen to buy food or you eat a lot of fast food I guess! Also I told them while going other places you sleep in tack rooms, or they might have separate dorms but you still live by a barn.

The expression I got from the guy was the most funny expresson I could possible imagine. He then asked you must really love the sport of horse racing to even live in those kind of environments for I would never see him living in something in those terms. I thought about it and my answer was horse racing is who I am! I might not be wehre I want to be right now but I'm still going for my goal, and eventually do plan on earning that. Its a sport you never get bored with for your always learning something and you never have to put up with a person talking back to you, which of course you do have those people, but a horse doesn't talk back to you, they just might buck you off ha! But they are an amazing animal and thats why I love it! I thought I'd share that with you guys cause after you think about it and how much your willing to take and dont' car what environment you may live in racing is what you call WINNING the LOTTERY 
 

Tiffany's first blog
Category: Member Blogs

I have never written a blog before but thought it would be interesting if I did! This year i went to the breeders cup to finally meet and see zenyatta run and it was amazing! I hope in my future and hoping I ride in races I will have a horse with that much heart and that much speed to fill like I'm flying! She was so georgeous! it was probably the most memorable moment I'll have!

I grew up with horses my whole life and I dont think I could live without them for in a way they complete who i am. I have a special connection between my horses and they always take me to a happier place when I feel down or having a bad day so I Think thats why i always wanted to be a jockey. I feel as if that's my place in the world to be on top of gods creation and ride them to victory! I have leanred a lot from my horses for I have a pony horse that is lame and he loves his job but I have leanred that no matter how much you love something never give up! I have retired him but he has taught me more than I could ever imagine! Who would think a horse would teach a person a lesson Right?

I currently worked at Canterbury, Shakopee Mn track and Loved it! I was also working at a bush track here in ND but it shut down for it didn't have enough money and thats how I ended up in MN! I do plan on going to Nebraska to Fonner Park in April till the end of the meet and probably go up north to Canada!  I am old to start riding! But i never had the oppertunity to start early or even have a track close to us for living on a dairy farm my parents didn't have time to do that, instead we had to help them with their chores so when I finally turned 18 I went to college and started working at a track. Then it shut down and its taking a little longer than I wish it was for me to get where I want to go!

I'm hoping to meet all you guys and learn so many new things! for this is a life i chose to take and hopefully I keep traveling down the same path to the winners circle :D
 

Getting Started
Category: Member Blogs

I've never written in a blog before so I dont know if I'm doing this right but here goes nothing :p

Last weekend I finally got to meet a jockey and go with her to a racetrack in Illinois called Hawthorne. I am really looking forward to going back as often as I can and learning as much as I can about the ins and outs of the track. My goal is to become an exercise rider and possibly a jockey for steeplechasing as well.

 

I'd like to know what everyone else's goals are in horseracing. Or if you achieved your goals already what are some of your best memories or helpful pointers to the rest of us who are just starting out?

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