By Noah Joseph
While horse racing may not be a part of the Olympic events in Tokyo right now, there once was a horse that raced at Canterbury who ran like an Olympic champion and had the name of one too. That horse was Gold Medal Dancer.
Gold Medal Dancer was bred in Kentucky by her owner Pin Oak Stable and trained throughout her career by Donnie Von Hemel. She was sired by Medaglia d’Oro, whose name means “gold medal” in Italian, and her dam was Bachata, which is a type of romantic music that originated in the Dominican Republic. That explains how Gold Medal Dancer got her name. She only raced twice at Canterbury during her career, but she was already a successful filly before coming to Shakopee. As a three-year-old, she competed in stakes races across the country, including two graded stakes. Although she was never quite able to win one, she always gave her best when competing. With her heart and competitiveness, it wouldn’t take long for her to win a stakes race.
In 2014, Gold Medal Dancer came to Shakopee to compete in the Minnesota HBPA Distaff Stakes. She was expected to be one of the favorites in the one mile turf contest. However, Mother Nature threw a curveball on race day. Heavy rains forced turf races to a muddy main track, including the Minnesota HBPA Distaff. Yet these circumstances didn’t bother Gold Medal Dancer in the slightest. She stalked the leaders and made a move near the far turn and was in contention to win as the field turned for home. She took the lead in the stretch and had to hold on to win by a head over the game Every Way. Gold Medal Dancer was ridden by Luis Quinonez, who was Canterbury’s leading rider from 1995 to 1999. One could see that this was a very popular victory for the jockey that fans called Luis Q. Quinonez and Gold Medal Dancer teamed up again in the Lady Canterbury, and once again rain forced the turf contest to the main track. The fans were confident that Gold Medal Dancer could win two in a row. Once again she made a move turning for home and dueled this time with Awesome Flower in the stretch, but Awesome Flower was able to fend off the challenge. While this loss may have stung, the best was yet to come for Gold Medal Dancer.
The following season, Gold Medal Dancer really began to find her stride as she won the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park, beating the previous year’s Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Untappable in an upset. She then finished third in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn and again in the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs. Gold Medal Dancer retired later that year with seven wins from twenty starts and earnings of $639,000. Many of those achievements may not have happened if she had never competed at Canterbury, using those races as a springboard to greater things. In the category of horses that have raced at Canterbury and have gone on to have major success, Gold Medal Dancer certainly took home the gold.