Nearly 30 years ago, Michael Nance got his start in Thoroughbred racing cutting the grass at the Busler Training Center in Evansville, Ind. He recently saddled the 1,000th winner as a trainer.
The milestone came May 19 in the ninth race at Thistledown near Cleveland, Ohio, when Ben's Reflection, ridden by Jeff Johnston, captured a $30,000 handicap at six furlongs. Ben's Reflection is owned by Ron McKay's M.Y. Stables, for which Nance has won many of his races.
"To do it with a horse like this in a bigger race is special," Nance said. "He's a rarity--he's a horse we bought. He has had a tremendous amount of success from the start."
Though McKay breeds many of his runners, the Cahill Road gelding is an exception. McKay purchased the Ohio-bred horse from Barb Holbrook as an afterthought. He is now a three-time Ohio sprint champion and older handicap champion.
Nance worked his way up through the ranks at the Busler Training Center, then became an assistant under Bob Winsted and Don Ewers. Nance went out on his own in 1982.
Two years later, he hooked up with McKay, to whom he attributes a great deal of his success. The trainer estimates he and the owner have teamed for 900 trips to the winner's circle over 22 years, and noted they are closing in on 100 stakes wins.
"We've had our ups and downs, but there have been more good times than bad," Nance said. "The vast majority (of wins) are all his horses."
Nance calls Fairmount Park his home track and competes primarily on the Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio circuits. Among the horses in his stable is former Indiana Horse of the Year Mr. Mink, a five-time stakes winner at Hoosier Park.