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Vance retires from racing; snared four Oaklawn crowns

by Bob Wisener | July 15, 2023 at 4:01 a.m.
Thoroughbred horse trainer David Vance poses April 10, 2013, outside his Oaklawn barn. - File photo by The Sentinel-Record

Horse racing has two personalities with the same name. David Vance is known at Remington Park for a body of work that prompted the Oklahoma City track to name a stakes race in his honor. Another David Vance is checking out of the sport after 58 years.

The latter is known to many Oaklawn patrons as the father of trainers Tommy and Trisha Vance. Before that, he and Arkansas horseman Dan Lasater formed one of the most unbeatable owner-trainer combinations in the Hot Springs track's history.

Vance continued training despite an automobile accident in northern Kentucky in late 2007, in which he suffered extensive neck and back injuries when his vehicle overturned and struck a concrete wall on a slick highway. Following extensive rehabilitation, he has since utilized a motorized wheelchair to get around and attend to his stable.

Vance's greatest racing victory came with Caressing in the 2000 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs, coming with a year-end division championship. Past Churchill Downs board chairman Carl Pollard owned Caressing and some other Vance-trained runners.

Vance authored one of the greatest seasons in Oaklawn history with a meet-high 50 victories in 1974, many owned by the flamboyant Lasater.

The trainer's top money-winning horses, according to, were G1 winners Caressing with $955,998 and My Trusty Cat with $902,753. The latter horse, a Tale of the Cat mare owned by Pollard, won the 2005 G1 Humana Distaff Handicap at Churchill Downs and the listed 2003 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn. Fourth in the 2003 Grade 2 Fantasy in Hot Springs, she also won Oaklawn allowances each of the next two years.

Vance also trained E J Harley, a 17-time winner of $456,915. The Beat Inflation gelding won his career debut by 2 1/2 lengths as a 3-year-old gelding from Oaklawn's outside No. 12 post position under Weldon Cloninger Jr. April 13, 1995, for Little Rock owner Wilbur Giles. E J Harley went on to win an Oaklawn race seven of the next nine years, taking the Hot Springs Stakes from 1998-2000 and the King Cotton in 2000. He twice placed in the track's Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap. It took the great Whitmore to better those marks with a record four wins in the Hot Springs before retiring in 2021 after a championship season for co-owner and trainer Ron Moquett.

Vance also won Oaklawn titles with 27 victories in 1972, 46 in 1973 and 43 in 1976; the late Cole Norman set a track record with 71 wins in 2003, his third of six straight championship seasons in Hot Springs.

Vance, who turns 83 in August, began training on his own in 1965. Winning at a 17% clip, he retires with 3,193 victories and more than $40.5 million in purses, per Equibase.

Said Tommy Vance, "Dad has accomplished a lot of things as a trainer, but I most admire his courage, hard work and determination for achieving those accolades. Throughout his career he's never had more than 40 horses in his care at one time and won thousands of races doing so."

The trainer's last recorded win came Feb. 4 at Oaklawn with Charter Oak, a $30,000 claimer at 23-1 odds with Joe Talamo riding.

Vance's retirement from the sport follows that of trainer Don Von Hemel, 1981 local champion, after the Oaklawn season.

Print Headline: Vance retires from racing; snared four Oaklawn crowns


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