by Sandra Snyder
For years, Gary Lance has trained one or two horses from his Port Perry, ON base, enjoying owning and training standardbreds as a hobby alongside his work at Ontario Power Generation, but this year he owns a share in four racehorses and two broodmares.
The now retired Lance is training 8-year-old pacing mare Sly Eleanor N (McArdle–Girl In The Mist) and 2-year-old trotting gelding Magical Major (Father Patrick–Magical Steph), while Paul Reid conditions 2-year-old pacing colt Sports Box (Sportswriter–Dance With Me Tina) and 2-year-old trotting gelding Dechambo (Kadabra–Tactical Caviar). The broodmares reside at Robert Coblentz’s Double Spring Farm in Dundee, OH.
“This is the first year I’ve had that many,” said Lance with a chuckle. “I’ve always just kind of done it as a hobby, just had one or two at the most. And I like that because if you want to take some time off you can always turn your horses out or find a spot for them for a couple weeks.”
Lance typically buys one or two horses at the yearling sale each year, but when bidding stalled at $19,000 on Magical Major at last fall’s Standardbred Horse Sales Company yearling sale he decided to bring the colt home. A Muscle Hill half-brother, Magical Muscle Man, had brought $95,000 in 2019. Then, during a winter visit to see the horses Reid was training for him in Florida, Sports Box caught his eye.
“Sports Box, we bought him after Robert Key passed away. I went down to Florida in January, I had three or four down there with Paul, and we liked the colt so we ended up buying him,” said Lance. “He’s holding his own. He’s not one of your better Gold horses, but he’s a check-getter.”
Sports Box started his career with a win in a June 25 overnight event at Woodbine Mohawk Park and since then has tallied one fourth, one fifth and one eighth in Gold Series action and a fifth in his Nassagaweya division on Aug. 28. He makes his fourth Gold Series start at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday (Sept. 4) for Lance, Reid and BC Reichheld Stables of Caledonia, ON.
Magical Major finished second in his July 2 career debut, followed that up with a fifth and then made breaks in both legs of the Millard Farms Series and earned himself a stint in the field with hopes for one or two additional starts before the end of the season. Dechambo has yet to make his debut.
Lance and his best friend Brian Samis, also of Port Perry, ON, have owned Sly Eleanor N off and on since 2019 and the pacing mare is a weekly combatant in the conditioned ranks at Georgian Downs and Woodbine Mohawk Park. Samis also lends Lance a hand when it comes time to race one of the horses, whether he has an ownership interest or not.
“Mostly every time when I go to the racetrack we’re always together. We’ve always kidded over the years where if we pulled out and started going towards Kawartha or Georgian, we’d joke, ‘Oh were going the wrong way, we should be going towards Mohawk,’” said Lance. “He’s been with me a long time and we do it together and we always have a lot of fun. So it never seems like work when we go to the track because we go for the enjoyment and the entertainment.”
Lance had the same enjoyment-first partnership with Pat Dillon, a former co-worker at Ontario Power Generation who recently returned to training his own small stable after a 25 year hiatus. The pair would take a horse to race south of the border and take a side trip to the local golf course or to see a pro sports game.
“We always seemed to do a lot when we’d go to race, and have fun,” said Lance. “We owned a horse together called Totally Kissed and we took him down there for a claiming series (the 2018 Claim To Fame Series at Miami Valley Raceway) and we won all three legs and the final and that was pretty exciting.”
In spite of his current abundance of horses, Lance admitted he will be heading back to the yearling sales in Lexington and Harrisburg. He has always preferred trotters and would like to acquire another son or daughter of Kadabra from the Ontario stallion’s second to last crop, hoping for another success story like Cold Certified, who earned $477,507 in his career, or Magical Steph, who banked $147,900.
The horse that tops Lance’s list of favorites however, is Amigo Hall–Fire Breather gelding Structure Fire, who earned $254,826 and gave an early boost to the horseman’s hobby.
“Structure Fire was probably my favorite because he was the first one, I bought him real cheap and he made pretty good money,” said Lance, a first generation horseman who has shared his enthusiasm for the game with his son Trevor. “I’ve been lucky enough, not that I would say because of my skill level or my greatness as a trainer, but I’ve just been lucky enough to have a couple nice horses.”
And while Lance may have a few more horses than the one or two that graced his barn pre-retirement, family, friendship and enjoyment will continue to be the foundation of the operation.