“Spirit of the Horse” award for US assemblyman Ron Dancer

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Ron Dancer
Ron Dancer

New Jersey Assemblyman Ron Dancer has been honored with the Rutgers Equine Science Center’s “Spirit of the Horse” award in recognition of his contributions to the state’s horse industry.

Dancer, son of the late famed harness horse racing driver Stanley Dancer, sponsored the legislation to save the future of New Jersey horse racing by authorizing the lease of the Meadowlands racetrack and Monmouth Park to the private sector.

“Horses have always been a part of my life and I am honored to be able to give back to the equine industry, not only because it has been so impactful personally, but also because it is such an important part of New Jersey’s identity,” Dancer (R-Ocean) said.

Dancer professionally raced and trained harness horses from 1968 through 1998. He has served on the boards of numerous equine organizations, including the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Sire Stakes, the US Trotting Association, and the New Jersey Racing Commission.

As a lawmaker since 2002, Dancer has worked to ensure the sustainability of the equine industry. His legislation constitutionally dedicated revenues from sports wagering to horse racing purses. Dancer was chairman of the USTA’s racing helmet safety research and development committee that established a standard of safety for the manufacture of drivers’ helmets.

The award was presented virtually at the center’s annual Evening of Science and Celebration last week.

In 1964, Ron Dancer’s father, Stanley, bought New Zealand pacer Cardigan Bay in partnership for $100,000 in Australia, from Auckland owner Audrey Dean. It was a huge price for an eight-year-old gelding who had won only $US137,000, but Cardigan Bay had run a mile in 1 minute 56 1/5 seconds, one of the fastest times ever recorded at the time. Cardigan Bay proved immensely popular in the US, and was the only horse to defeat the three US Hall of Fame horses of that era: Overtrick, Bret Hanover, and Meadow Skipper.

As a 12-year-old, he became the first harness horse to win $US1 million. A month after he reached the million-dollar mark, it was, by formal proclamation, “Cardigan Bay Day” in Yonkers, New York. The next day he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. He was retired and lived out his days in New Zealand.

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