Gold Rush Dancer: Back on track and in good order

September 21, 2021

It popped up on social media: 8-year-old Gold Rush Dancer returned to the track after two and a half years in retirement. And people were a little curious. Why was he back?

Before we get started let’s do some comparables. Athletes do retire and come back to their respective sports. A lot of athletes. So many Wikipedia lists hundreds in 13 international sports. They include Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Dion Sanders, Yogi Berra, Satchel Paige, Gordy Howe and even Gary Stevens who was out twice due to injuries and surgeries but came back to win the 2013 Preakness aboard Oxbow at the age of 50.

So, Gold Rush Dancer came back as an 8-year-old. A horse should be looking for a second career off the track at that point, right? Not so fast.

Take Grady, a Florida bred who raced all over the country until the ripe old age of 11. The feisty compact bay gelding with a heart as large as he is, finished his career with 104 Starts, 15 firsts, 22 seconds and 19 thirds, and career earnings of $785,436. 15 wins included stakes.

As a 2-yer-old, Grady won the Indian Nations Futurity Cup at The Downs at Santa Fe by nipping General Gems by a neck at the wire also beating future Preakness winner Real Quiet who finished third back two and a half lengths. Grady is now 26 years old and resides in Florida with his former trainers, Dwight and Andi Puckett, racing in his paddock every day.

Then there is King Leatherbury’s Ben’s Cat. Ben’s Cat raced successfully until he was 11 completing his career with a record of 63 starts, 32 wins, 9 seconds, 7 thirds and earnings of $2,643,782. 26 of his wins were stakes and four were graded stakes. 

Graham Motion’s Better Talk Now raced until he was 10 with a record of 51 starts, 14 firsts, 8 seconds, 5 thirds and earnings of $4,356,664. 10 of his wins were stakes of which 9 were graded stakes. Better Talk Now gave Motion his first Breeder’s Cup win in the 2004 BC Turf G1 at Lone Star Park. 

John Henry raced until 9, Soi Phet raced until 11, Two Notch Road until the age of 12. 

What do these horses have in common? They all had breaks for freshening. As did Gold Rush Dancer. 

Now that we have that settled, we might say what age a horse should retire depends on fitness—physical and mental, injuries, their desire to run, if they are going to the breeding shed and how the owner and trainer handle their careers. It’s not really a matter of public opinion. And if a mare in foal can start in a race why can’t a stallion return to the track? (That last part is my opinion.)

Gold Rush Dancer’s Return

As a 3-year-old Gold Rush Dancer won three stakes in a row earning Black Type with each at three different tracks in California in 2016. In 35 starts his career earnings are $549,498, a quite respectable amount. He ran exclusively in stakes races except his maiden that he won. The Cal Bred retired from the track after his last race at Del Mar on July 22, 2018, where he finished tenth. Apparently, with an injury. While not a happy exit it was a well-earned retirement.

So why after almost three years off the track was the dark brown horse running in Allowance and Claiming races at Parx starting in late January 2021?

The 8-year-old son of Private Gold out of an In Excess (IRE) mare Dances on Water was bred in California by John E. Parker, also his owner. Parker has a large string of horses he currently runs at Emerald Downs in Washington state and Parx in Pennsylvania. 

The California 3-year-old Champion had been busy in his retirement and there was a logical reason behind every decision according to Parker.

“He was retired in 2018 because of sesamoid fracture which completely healed as shown on X-rays. Being completely sound in 2019 I sent Gold Rush Dancer to stud at El Dorado Farm in Enumclaw, Washington. He covered 27 mares his first year and 13 his second. I paid all expenses in the breeding shed. 

“When the breeding industry started to dwindle in Washington state, I decided to see how Gold Rush Dancer’s babies ran before continuing the breeding program,” Parker explained.

The 7-year-old stallion was getting bored just being in a field and stall and had a hunger to run. Parker thought maybe a try on the track would give Gold Rush Dancer a boost while they awaited the results of his offspring. Parker sent him to Emerald Downs in 2020 for training but was reluctant to run him there. 

“I shipped the horse east. If he ran in claiming races, he would be less likely to be claimed because he was less well known in the east,” Parker stated.

Running at Parx since January 25, 2021, Gold Rush Dancer has had 11 starts under trainer Ernesto Padilla-Preciado.

While the stallion doesn’t have his old spark, his results are fair. He won a 5 1/2 furlongs claimer on dirt at Parx on May 10 under jockey Jeremy Laprida by 3-1/2 lengths. ESF 79. At Delaware Park on June 21, he rallied to place second in an SOC five furlongs on turf missing another win by half a length with Erick Lopez up. ESF 73. The 8-year-old stallion would follow up with a third-place performance under Jeremy Laprida at Park on July 7 where the Equibase footnotes say he tired. ESF 72. Gold Rush Dancer also scored fourth in three Allowances at Parx with respectable ESF’s in the mid 80’s.

Gold Rush Dancer seemed to have lost his speed and a bit of stamina during his breeding run, although he still appeared to enjoy being at the track. Parker said the stallion likes to be active. But Parker knew he was ready for time off. 

“His results aren’t great (compared to his stakes career). He did win one. But he is eight years old. So, I turned him out on a farm in Delaware for a three-month break while I decided whether he will return to the breeding shed or to the track to build his confidence with a win. We’ll see how his babies run, June/July 2022.” Parker said.  

Mr. Parker has three of Gold Rush Dancer’s babies that he hopes to start on the track in 2022. He said he also hopes to keep the horse after either of his careers.

“He’s a real nice horse. He loves to be around people,” Parker said.

First Part of Gold Rush Dancer’s Career

In the first part of his career before his retirement Gold Rush Dancer boasted quite an impressive record.

As a 2-year-old, the frisky colt broke his maiden at first asking at Emerald Downs on July 4, 2015, for trainer Bill Tollet and followed that up with a stakes schedule where he performed well. Second in the Emerald Express, third in the W.T.B.O.A. Lads Stakes; second in the Captain Condo; a win in the Gottstein Futurity earning Black Type; and a third in the Golden Nugget with a change in trainer to Candice Cryderman. The latter race was at Golden Gate as his first five starts were at Emerald Downs. All were on dirt except for Golden Gate which was on the synthetic track. All were six furlongs. 

Rounding out his juvenile year, Gold Rush Dancer took a step back finishing fifth in the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate. He then headed for Southern California. 

The Cal-bred would start off his sophomore year in March under yet another trainer, Vann Belvoir, working in the California circuit between Santa Anita and Del Mar and making trips up to Golden Gate with a few trips down to Los Alamitos. 

Things started off a little slow and then he took off like a rocket. Bouncing off a second place in the Echo Eddie at Santa Anita in early April, the 3-year-old colt started racking up wins. Under jockey Flavien Prat he won the Silky Sullivan at Golden Gate at 1 1/8 mile and the Snow Chief at Santa Anita at one mile, both on turf and then the Real Good Deal at Del Mar on dirt at seven furlongs. Each win earned him Black Type. His Equibase Speed Figures (ESF) were triple digit. 

Gold Rush Dancer’s connections in the winner’s circle at Santa Anita after the win in the Snow Chief May 28, 2016. Mr. Melvin F. Stute (trainer of Snow Chief) is presenting the trophy to winning jockey, Flavien Prat. To Prat’s left (camera right) is owner, John Parker. To the left of the young lady standing next to Parker is winning trainer Vann Belvoir. (Photo by Benoit Photos)

Stepping up to graded stakes company in the Del Mar Derby G2 again with Prat up, Gold Rush Dancer was a bit outclassed and finished twelfth of thirteen runners but with a very good 105 ESF. In the Twilight Derby G2 at Santa Anita his next start would be the same results. Finishing ninth of ten he still earned a 105 ESF. 

November 20, 2016, Belvoir dropped the colt back to a seven furlongs stake on dirt in the Cary Grant at Del Mar for a more comfortable run. Although Gold Rush Dancer didn’t quite have the stamina to give a good performance. Parker and Belvoir made the decision to give the colt a rest and he went off the track for almost seven months. 

Gold Rush Dancer’s first start of 2017 would be at six furlongs on June 11 in the Thor’s Echo Handicap at Santa Anita. At six furlongs on dirt, he finished last. 

A month later at Los Alamitos Belvoir would start the now 4-year-old colt in the Bertrando Stakes at one mile. Under 19-year-old apprentice jockey Evin Roman he scored a third again with triple digit ESF. Gold Rush Dancer was finding his ground again. (Side note: He ran against Soi Phet who finished fifth) 

Parker and Belvoir would take Gold Rush Dancer back up to Emerald Downs in Washington for his next start on August 13 in the Longacres Mile Handicap G3. It would be his third attempt to contest graded competitors. 

Again, with Evin up, Gold Rush Dancer would come up against a hearty field of twelve. Breaking from post three the colt took the lead until settling behind Dedicated to You who lead briefly at a quarter mile run in :22.4. By the half-mile mark Gold Rush Dancer had surged to the front and jumped three lengths by the far turn. Mach One Rule finished second.

Gold Rush Dancer would crush the competition winning by four and three-quarters lengths. He ran the one mile in 1:33.85 under 120 lbs. and returned $8.40, $4.20 and $3.80. 

The resolute colt and his connections bagged a tasty $110,000 of the $200,000 purse and a graded stakes win on his resume. 

Trainer Vann Belvoir with Gold Rush Dancer draped in the blanket of roses for winning the 82nd Longacres Mile Handicap G3 at Emerald Downs August 13, 2017. (Photo by Erin and Reed Palmer/courtesy of Emerald Downs)

“We knew we had him ready, and a lot depended on the first turn,” Belvoir told The Courier-Herald. “Evin’s been really good out of the gate and our goal was to send him into the first turn and see where we were at. I don’t know if we were expected to be on the lead, but that’s where he ended up. Then he settled off [Dedicated to You] on the outside.”

This race was special to Belvoir. A former jockey, he had won the race in the irons in 1994 aboard Want A Winner for trainer Charles Gibson. Vann’s father, Howard Belvoir, also won the Longacres Mile twice as a trainer with Wasserman in 2008, who he also owned, and Assessment in 2009.

2017 Longacers Mile Handicap 

2017 Longacres Mile

Belvoir said the Mile victory culminated a plan that began in winter 2016. “This was our goal for a long time,” he said. “(Gold Rush Dancer) had no issues but we gave him a break. This was his third start back and he ran his best race.”

“My horse has been awesome, and Vann has done a great job with him the last two years,” Parker remarked. “It was awesome to have the horse come back home to win the big race.”

The pinnacle of Gold Rush Dancer’s career was also that of John Parker’s. “It was a thrill. The excitement of coming back to Emerald Downs where he started. It was an amazing experience,” Parker recounted.

The dark brown colt gained national notoriety with numerous articles and magazine covers for his accomplishments. 

Gold Rush Dancer would finish the year starting in three stakes in Southern California with lackluster results. He would get a six-week hiatus as a refresher. 

The road after the mile video about Gold Rush Dancer by Emerald Downs

The Road After The Mile: Gold Rush Dancer

Sadly 2018 would be a dismal year for the now 5-year-old horse and would end with an injury. Belvoir ran Gold Rush Dancer on the turf. His first start was January 1 with six months between his next start with mediocre performances. 

Gold Rush Dancer would end his career in the one-mile Wicker Stakes at Del Mar on July 22, 2018, in tenth place out of twelve. At least he wasn’t last. And you must give him credit for winning first out and running in stakes his entire career. And you must give Parker credit for how he managed his career. 

John Parker, from Lake Bay, Washington, is a kind and caring owner. Parker owns and runs Freight Northwest, a shipping company in Tacoma, in addition to owning Thoroughbred horses. In 2015 he was leading owner at Emerald Downs by money, in 2016 he was the co-leading owner by wins. In 2017 Parker was the leading owner by money earned.

Parker is the current leading owner for the summer meet at Emerald Downs and won the Saturday Feature Race on September 18 with Franks Fix It with jockey Juan Gutierrez up. 

When I spoke with Mr. Parker, I told him I was smitten with Gold Rush Dancer after my research and please give him two mints and a big carrot from me. “He loves mints!” Parker exclaimed. 

By Maribeth Kalinich, Jeff Metz contributor

Photo of Gold Rush Dancer winning The Real Good Stakes at Del Mar on July 27, 2016, by Zoe Metz. 

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