stanley f. dancer
Stanley Dancer was born on July 25, 1927 and was the youngest son of New Jersey dairy and potato farmer James Dancer and his wife Helen. Stanley began his career as a groom, bought his first horse, Candor, with his new bride Rachel's nest egg, and went on to become one of the most famous and successful horsemen in harness racing history. His brothers Harold and Vernon also achieved prominence as trainer-drivers. It was Harold who first introduced Stanley and later Vernon to the sport.
Harold Dancer influenced the way in which races were conducted. He was the first driver whose strategy was generally to "send" horses in an attempt to go wire-to-wire, thus forcing other drivers to challenge him earlier than usual.
Dancer is the only horseman, as of 2006, to have trained and driven three Triple Crown winners. He did so with the trotters Nevele Pride in 1968 and Super Bowl in 1972 and with the pacer Most Happy Fella in 1970. He also has the distinction of being the only trainer-driver to win seven Horse of the Year titles, a feat he accomplished with Su Mac Lad (1962), Nevele Pride (1967, 1968, 1969), Albatross (1971, 1972), and Keystone Ore (1976).
Dancer trained the winners of five Hambletonians and drove four of them to victory: Nevele Pride (1968), Super Bowl (1972), Bonefish (1975) and Duenna (1983). In the four-heat 1965 Hambletonian, the Dancer-trained winner Egyptian Candor was driven by Del Cameron. Dancer drove the betting-favored member of his entry, Noble Victory, who did not place. Super Bowl's 1972 victory in 1:57.2 and 1:56.2 broke five world records: the fastest mile ever for a three-year-old trotter, the fastest mile in a race for a three-year-old trotter, the fastest two heats by a three-year-old trotter, the fastest two heats for all ages for trotters, and the fastest second heat for a trotter of any age. Bonefish's 1975 Hambletonian victory was a world record for four heats divided, with Bonefish beating Yankee Bambino in the last heat by a nose. Dancer's victory with Duenna in 1983 was bittersweet as his highly-regarded Dancer's Crown, whom he had intended to drive, died after intestinal surgery just two weeks prior to the Hambletonian.
Dancer trained and drove four Little Brown Jug winners: Henry T. Adios (1961), Lehigh Hanover (1962), Most Happy Fella (1970) and Keystone Ore (1976).
Dancer's remarkable Nevele Pride broke ten trotting-race world records during the span of three years (1967-1969) and in 1969 became the fastest trotter in the history of the sport with a 1:54.4 time trial at Indianapolis, thereby breaking Greyhound's 1938 record of 1:55 1/4. His race records were for the fastest two-year-old on a mile track (1:58.2) and a five-eighths mile track (2:02.3), the fastest three-year-old on a mile track (1:56.3), the fastest three-year-old on a five-eighths mile track (1:59), the fastest all-age trotter on a five-eighths mile track (1:58), and the fastest four-year-old and all-age trotter on a half-mile track (1:56.4). In addition, he set three world records for fastest heats.
The outstanding Dancer-trained pacer Albatross was also a multi world-record holder. As a three-year-old in 1971 he became the fastest Standardbred in a race when he paced in 1:54.4 on a mile track. He established world records at Lexington for the fastest first heat (1:54.4), the fastest second heat (1:54.4) and the fastest two-heat race (3:49.3). The following year he set world records for all-age pacers on a five-eighths mile track (1:54.3) and a half-mile track (1:55.3).
Other races won by Dancer in world-record time were Belle Acton's 1955 mile in 2:02.2, which broke the world record for two-year-old pacers on a half-mile track, and Cardigan Bay's 1965 mile in 1:57.2, which broke the record for aged gelding pacers on a mile track.
Dancer was the first driver to win over a million dollars in a single season, 1964, the same year in which Cardigan Bay became the first harness horse to achieve a career total of $1 million n earnings. Dancer was the leading moneywinning driver in the country (1961, 1962, 1964, 1966) and the leading universal driver rating system driver for 300 or more starts (1962-1968). When he drove his last race, a winning effort behind Lifelong victory on September 21, 1995 at Garden State Park, he had accumulated a career total of 3,781 wins and earnings of $28,002,426).
Stanley Dancer was inducted into the Harness Racing Living Hall of Fame in 1970. He passed away on September 8, 2005 at the age of 78 at his home in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Published in the Harness Racing Museum's 2006 book, The 2003-2005 Immortals