07/01/2011 1:32PM

Emerald: Nance quietly having a solid meeting


AUBURN, Wash. − While he’s no threat to win the Emerald Downs training title – at least not this year – Jonathan Nance is having a terrific meeting. Entering this week, 30 of his 46 starters had finished first, second, or third, an in-the-money rate of 65 percent. Jerry Hollendorfer would be proud.

Nance is pleased, too. “It’s going better than I thought it would go,” Nance said Thursday. “The horses seem to be running pretty good. I’m pretty happy about the percentages. The track has been really good. As long as I can keep them sound, I think I’ll keep doing well.”

Nance keeps and trains his horses at Portland Meadows, about 150 miles from Emerald Downs, and vans them in to compete. He is a big fish at Portland, where he has won several training titles, but success at Emerald has been more elusive. He campaigned Super Writer, who was Emerald’s claimer of the meet in 2000, but Nance has had some barren years, including a 3-for-58 downer in 2005.

For Nance, 38, it has all been part of the learning curve. More lessons were absorbed over the winter when he failed to meet his usual standards at Portland Meadows and finished fourth behind Hollendorfer in the standings.

Nance has won as many as 75 races in a year at Portland, but "I think I barely got to 35 this year,” Nance said. “It was quite a disappointment. I got frustrated. . . . I just went through some more adjusting as far as being a trainer. If you’re going to be good, you’ve got to work hard. The only way I know to make things go right is just to keep working at it.”

Nance operates mostly in lower-level claiming races with horses such as Avilion Air, Sasha B, and Atta Lora, who have combined to hit the board in 8 of 10 starts since the Emerald meeting began April 15. He is particularly adept at placing horses in the right spots. His last 20 starters finished like this: 3-2-3-6-3-2-3-3-4-1-4-1-3-3-2-4-1-1-4-1-6. Impressive.

“I try to do the best I can as far as putting a horse where he belongs and giving that horse the best opportunity to win,” he said. “If you do that, you’re going to lose horses, but the thing is, there are a lot of horses out there to claim. If I lose a horse, that’s great. I’m ready to go get some more.

“I’m looking for a horse that’s doing good,” he said. “I’m always looking for an out on a horse, looking to get out on a horse after one start … I want to claim one and maybe take a shot at winning with him next time.”

Nance set a record at Portland Meadows when he won six races Jan. 13, 2010, though it would be inaccurate to say he “saddled” six winners. Nance was in Kentucky on a horse-buying trip, leaving his wife, Shelly, to accept congratulatory handshakes and pose for a half-dozen photos in the winner’s circle.

Nance’s most indelible feat came later that spring, when he won the $52,550 Portland Mile with Coronas At Delmar, a horse he had claimed for $2,500 four months earlier.

“I ran a horse for $4,000 named Polo Bender, and Coronas At Delmar outran me by about seven lengths, so when they dropped him in for $2,500, I thought they were playing an angle, and I claimed him,” he said. “The horse stayed sharp and won all the right races at the right time.

“I didn’t have to do a lot, honestly,” he said. “The horse just loved the racetrack. I don’t think he liked the synthetic down in Northern California, and I think he just took to the racetrack really well.”

Nance is 0 for 12 in stakes races at Emerald Downs. Ask him about the best horse in his barn, and the expectation is he will name one of his hard-knocking claimers. Or maybe not. There’s always hope for something better, in this case from an unraced 2-year-old filly.

“I hope the best horse in my barn is Gotaminute,” he said. “She’s running Monday. She’ll be making her first start in the stakes. I bought her out of the sale for a thousand bucks. She may need a little more distance than 5 1/2 furlongs. But the way horses have been running off the bench for me, you never know − short field, if everything goes right. It’s worth a shot.”

Schiro recovering from injuries

Tony Schiro was in remarkably good spirits Thursday, five days after he suffered broken bones and head injuries when he was trampled by a runaway horse at Emerald Downs. Schiro, 70, is being treated for the injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Schiro was airlifted to Harborview with what were considered life-threatening injuries.

“The only thing making me mad is I can’t move around,” he said. “I’m pretty active, and now I can’t do anything till I get better.”

Schiro said he had been through the last of his surgeries. Now comes a long rehabilitation.

“They did something to the femur,” he said. “The rest of them – the hip, they said leave it alone. The shoulder blade, leave it alone. The 10 broken ribs, leave those alone. And my face, they can’t do nothing for me.”

And then he laughed. His sense of humor was bruised by not broken.

“I always wanted to ride in a helicopter,” he said, “but not like that.”