The glamor and prestige

Recalling a memorable 1968 Horse of the Year banquet.

by Murray Brown

Best of luck to all at the Dan Patch Awards Dinner tonight.

I voted for Bettors Wish as Horse of the Year, but if the award goes to Shartin N or perhaps Greenshoe, I wouldn’t argue. May the best, or perhaps the most popular horse win.

Regardless, I expect the outcome to be pretty close.

Time for me to reminisce.

My first Horse of the Year banquet was in 1968. It wasn’t yet called the Dan Patch Awards dinner.

It was held at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in midtown Manhattan. It was a beautiful black tie event with all the men dressed in tuxedos and the women dressed in their very finest.

I remember my late wife Marlene was offered a gorgeous mink coat to borrow by one of her relatives in Long Island. She said she felt like a queen. She also looked like one. If not all, then the majority of the women attending were dressed in furs. How things have changed.

Lawrence Sheppard was being installed in the Hall of Fame.

Mr. Sheppard was in very poor health and was unable to attend. He was to pass away shortly thereafter. John Simpson, Sr., his surrogate, was busy in Orlando at Ben White Raceway training his stable with his son John Jr and couldn’t get away.

I was asked to attend and accept in Mr. Sheppard’s place.

What an honor.

This punk kid, barely wet behind the years being asked to substitute for the greatest breeder and owner of his generation and maybe ever.

What would I do? What would I say?

To be quite honest, I don’t recollect what I did say when Stanley Bergstein introduced me.

The Horse of the Year in 1967 was Nevele Pride, the first 2-year-old trotter to ever capture the award. He would then go on to win this honor for the next two years.

Although Hanover Shoe Farms was not Nevele Pride’s breeder, I still felt a strong affiliation to him since he was sired by Stars Pride, a Hanover stallion, and was out of a mare by Hoot Mon, also a Hanover stallion.

In addition, although I had not even been at Hanover for a full year, I had developed a very close friendship with Stanley Dancer, Nevele Pride’s trainer and driver.

Here’s a little background on how Dancer came to purchase Nevele Pride.

Stanley’s older brother Harold R Dancer (Joe Bongiorno’s great grandfather) had trained Nevele Pride’s dam, a mare called Thankful for Mr. & Mrs. Edward Quin, long-time clients of his. In simple terms, she was a witch. Lois Dancer Simpson, Harold’s daughter, called her Little Evil. She was mean and nasty and very difficult to get along with.

Nevele Pride’s unruly behavior and meanness was come by honestly.

The Quins decided to breed Thankful to Stars Pride. They got a beautiful colt that they named Thankful’s Major.

They weren’t in a position to train the colt.

They asked Harold if he had an owner who might be interested in buying Thankful’s Major. I believe the price they were asking was $20,000.

He must have been a gorgeous colt, since Harold Dancer was likely the most demanding yearling buyer I’ve known in a lifetime in the sport.

Unfortunately, the time was before he had Bill Weaver as an owner. If Weaver had been around then, he almost certainly would have become the colt’s owner.

If Harold, couldn’t get the colt to train, he would recommend him to his brother, Stanley.

I believe it was sight unseen, but knowing that Harold was so particular, Stanley said that he’d buy the colt.

He approached Ben and Julius Slutsky, the owners of the Nevele Hotel, to buy Thankful’s Major. They quickly agreed. They changed his name to Nevele Pride.

Down the road, their friend and neighbor Louis Resnick bought an interest in him.

As great a racehorse as Nevele Pride was, he wasn’t quite as successful in the stallion ranks. I consider him to have been a good stallion, but not a great one.

Perhaps his influence is greater in Europe than it has been here in North America.

Nevertheless he made great contributions to the sport, both on the racetrack and in the breeding shed.

He was a well deserving recipient of the Horse of the Year honor.

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