Cup of Coffee: Horse Dancer

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Susan Wantz couldn’t stay for the Travers. Owner of Ballerina winner Dance To Bristol, Wantz and her husband Dave, drove through the night Thursday, slept for five hours, went to the races Friday. Dance To Bristol, purchased for $42,000 as a 2-year-old, won her seventh consecutive race, holding off favorite Book Review in the final strides of the Grade I stakes. The 4-year-old filly is approaching $1 million in earnings.

Wantz rejoiced, posed for photos, did interviews, celebrated in the trustees’ room. Right about the time, when most Saratoga winners finalize dinner plans (Siro’s, Prime, The Wishing Well…!), Wantz finalized driving plans.

She had horses to feed. Literally. Mares, foals, yearlings, pensioners – 22 strong – on the farm in Taneytown, Md. needed her attention Sunday morning. Beyond the ones on the farm, Wantz has another 13 in training.

Dance To Bristol feeds an army.

“She supports a lot of horses. I’ve always believed if you’re blessed, you’re blessed to be a blessing,” Wantz said. “That’s what we’re doing. If that gets more fans and gets more people in the horse business for the right reasons, I want to be a supporter of that.”

Wantz grew up in New England, spent time in Germany and eventually settled at the farm (she calls it a farmette) 10 miles south of Gettysburg, Pa. She rode and trained event horses and breeds horses for eventing and racing. In addition to breeding, she buys a few horses at public auctions. A fan of the stallion Speightstown, Wantz went to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale in Timonium two years ago and wound up with four horses on her short list. Dance To Bristol failed the vet, due to a narrow airway, but that was fine for Wantz.

“When I bought her, I felt like we would have a nice allowance horse,” Wantz said. “Look what she’s done, it shows you don’t know what you might get in heart and courage, she has more than enough to spare. I can’t thank the team enough. It’s been a lot of work getting her and keeping her here, that’s my job, I love all my horses but she’s definitely something special.”

Amen. Dance To Bristol began her winning scourge back in February and has now made it to August, still rolling. She overcame trouble in the Honorable Miss earlier in the meet and worked out a perfect trip in the Ballerina. Trained by Ollie Figgins, she will try to keep the ball in the air, first in the Gallant Bloom at Belmont and then the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita in the fall.

Wantz might have to skip Sunday feeding if Dance To Bristol gets to the Breeders’ Cup. That won’t come naturally.

“I’m usually in the stalls, taking care of them. When I think of my big points, I think of my relationships with horses and what I learned,” Wantz said. “If you’re in this game, you should really know about things, you should be able to detect things. They don’t all become racehorses and that’s OK. If you look at my horses, I breed horses to become event horses, if they can be racehorses, that’s great.”

Dance To Bristol would make a three-star event horse. Elegant and athletic, she would ace the dressage test. Confident and precise, she would sail around the cross country (as long as the rider could stay with her). Light on her feet, the show jumping would be a natural too. Obviously, Wantz has other plans for the chestnut filly.

“Let’s hope that when she goes on to her next career, whenever or whatever that might be, she’ll produce some nice images. I know she’s a beautiful horse. She’s spoiled rotten, but she deserves it. All my horses are spoiled,” Wantz said. “We take care of her chiropractically and homeopathically, if you pull her front leg forward, you won’t believe the length, the fluidity, the scope. That’s something that was always important to me in the event horses. I would love to measure her stride.”

Book Review tried.

In a world where many of the owners have become businessmen instead of sportsmen, Wantz brings a fresh perspective. A woman who knows horses and respects horses and chooses to play this game and play it well. Figgins and Wantz rested Dance To Bristol from April to December of her 3-year-old year because of a knee issue. She returned to repay their patience, relishing the systematic approach they offered. Allowance wins led to a stakes wins, which led to graded stakes wins, which led to her first grade one stakes win in the Ballerina.

Wantz took some credit and gave some credit.

“People who want to get in the horse business, should learn it,” Wantz said. “But, sometimes you have to say you got lucky and you got blessed.”