Trainer Harvey Vanier Dies at Age 89
by Ron Mitchell
Date Posted: 12/4/2013 9:48:21 AM
Last Updated: 12/5/2013 8:55:02 AM
Anne M. Eberhardt
Trainer Harvey Vanier, a mainstay at Illinois and Kentucky tracks for more than 60 years, died Dec. 1 in Versailles, Ky., at age 89. Vanier and his wife Nancy owned Fairberry Farm near Waterloo, Ill., and Rightaway Farm near Versailles.
A native of Diller, Neb., Vanier began his training career after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.
According to Equibase, Vanier saddled 11 winners during his first year of training in 1951. His final starter, Galloping Home, finished 11th in the final race at Keeneland Race Course on April 27, 2007.
In between, Vanier carved out a career in which he was known for his strong work ethic and dedication to his horses. According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Vanier sent out 1,988 winners from 14,112 starters and had career earnings of $40,013,967. He was the leading trainer at Keeneland during the 1987 spring meet and won seven training titles at Arlington Park.
Many of the best horses he trained were bred and/or owned by him, Nancy, and partners. Not unlike their trainer, many of Vanier's horses were hard-knocking blue-collar types who always showed up.
The top horse trained by Vanier was Nancy Vanier, Carl Lauer, and Robert Victor's Play Fellow, who upset the 1983 Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at 19-1 odds and went on to take the Travers, American Derby, and Arlington Classic, all grade I. Play Fellow retired with nine wins and seven placings from 22 starts and earnings of $711,253.
Vanier also saddled another Blue Grass winner, 1989 winner Western Playboy, a son of Play Fellow who was bred in Illinois by the trainer and his wife and raced for Nancy Vanier and Raymond Roncari.
In addition to two other grade I winners—Fortunate Moment and Safe Play—Vanier trained multiple graded stakes winners Architect, Iron Courage, Bungalow, Powerful Punch, Southern Playgirl, and Straight Line, among others.
In addition to his wife, Vanier is survived by his daughters Lyda (Brian) Vanier Williamson and Jenny (Frank) Vanier Allen.
The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 7 at Quernheim Funeral Home in Waterloo, Ill. The family suggests contributions to the Race Track Chaplaincy of America.
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