Winning number 1,000
Jonathan Nance, previously from Prineville, recently scored his 1,000th win as a horse trainer.
Iron Bell, a 3-year-old gelding trained by Nance, won by 2 1/2-lengths at Turf Paradise race track in Phoenix, Arizona, on Nov. 17. The race marked Nance's 29th year in his training career.
Nance was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his family moved to Prineville when he was a young boy. His father, Gene Nance, had a small animal veterinary clinic in Prineville and got into horse racing as a hobby.
"I got involved in it when I was about 9 or 10 years old," Nance said.
Nance learned horsemanship in the summers, and he went to tracks with his dad in Grants Pass, Salem and Prineville when he was in high school.
"I learned the basics of it when I was going through school," Nance said.
During his adolescent years, he also ran horses for Monty Gibson, a local resident whose family has been in horse racing for years. After graduating, Nance immediately went into training full time. He married his wife, Shelly, in 1992.
Nance got his first win that same year with a filly named Sea Vette in Salem at the Lone Oak race meet. Bloodhorse, a publication that covers the thoroughbred industry, featured Nance in its February 2019 edition. According to the article, as of Nov. 17, Nance had earned $5,862,409 in his career.
"I started with just a couple of horses, and it just grew from there," Nance said. "Over the years, as I started winning more races, I got a lot more clients and became a lot more successful throughout the years."
The couple moved to Vancouver, Washington, in 1998. Nance raced from 1994 to 2012, mainly at Portland Meadows and Emerald Downs in Auburn, Washington. They bought land in Brush Prairie, Washington, in 2005, where they bred and broke colts and fillies.
During the time he traveled the Portland and Seattle circuit, Nance set a record of five wins in a day at Portland Meadows in 2009, and he broke that record the following year with six wins in a day.
Nance has won four training titles at Portland Meadows and set a record in 2007 with 86 wins in one season. He has trained many Oregon champions, including several winning horses owned Steve Smith, a former Prineville resident who now lives in Eugene, Oregon.
"For his age, 1,000 wins came very fast," Smith said.
Smith added that Nance also has a high percentage in the entries that he has won as a trainer, with the latest being Grinning Tiger, the 2019 Oregon champion older gelding and champion horse of the year.
Nance has trained for several Prineville residents in addition to Smith, including Michael Stafford, Mark Stafford, Bump Stafford. Nance sent a horse, Proud Louie, to the Crooked River Roundup in 2004 and won the Art Smith Memorial for owner Steve Smith. Smith said that of the 1,000 winning horses Nance has trained, Smith has had 250 horses in that group.
"The training life is tough," Smith said. "You get up in the morning and you go to work, and you have to be there and have the horses fed by the time the sun comes up for them to go to the racetrack. There's a lot of work that goes into it."
In 2012, the Nances moved to Arizona to race at Turf Paradise. Nance has successfully raced at several tracks in the United States in his career, including in Arizona, California, Wyoming, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. He has also raced two races in Canada. The couple has four children. Their oldest, Alyssa 25, is married to Dj, Nance's assistant trainer. Their second-oldest, 22-year-old Rylie, graduated from Southern Utah University in 2015 and is working toward being a physical therapist. Quinci is a junior in high school, and Carson is in fifth grade.
"All of our children have worked at the racetrack at one time or another for us as summer jobs," Shelly said. "They all have great horsemanship." Nance moved his stable to the Midwest for the first time in 2019, based out of Indiana Grand in Shelbyville. He raced at Belterra Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Kentucky Downs, in Ellis Park, Kentucky.
He saddled his first runner at Churchill Downs — home of the Kentucky Derby — this past summer.
"That was on the bucket list," Shelly said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.