7/23/2010..I never had the opportunity to meet Blane Schvaneveldt, he passed away on July 5th at the age of 76, and was laid to rest in his native Idaho on Tuesday. The legendary quarter horse trainer’s influence on quarter horse racing was immeasurable. I’ve seen the pictures, and read many of the stories published in magazines about him and his horses thru the years. Watched and listened to him in interviews on TV, and even saw him a time or two at yearling sales.. But it must have been really something else, to have sat around and listened to him talk about the historic races he was a part of, and the legendary horses that have filled his barns for all these years..
..As a breeder, an owner and a trainer, Blane Schvaneveldt occupied win circles at race tracks across the western United States but it was within the beautiful backdrop of southern California and the Los Alamitos Race Course that Blane’s legend would grow..
..Born near Preston, Idaho in 1934, Blane was raised with 11 brothers and sisters on his family’s cattle ranch, and purchased his first horse at the age of 18. He entered races at local tracks and before long, Schvaneveldt would begin a training career at race tracks throughout the Pacific Northwest. Success would soon follow, but the money wouldn’t. At that time, purses were small and it was just about impossible to make a living training horses at the small tracks of Montana and Idaho.. So in 1968, he and his wife Shirley relocated to California, where a developing new track in Los Alamitos offered the opportunity for Blane to meet his destiny..
..The American Quarter Horse Association did not keep individual records for trainers until 1970, so details of his early achievements are unknown. But Schvaneveldt’s official training record is astounding. A 12-time AQHA Champion Trainer with 5,186 wins and 38 training titles, he trained 27 Champions including 6 World Champions, with a total of 58 Championship titles and career earnings of over $55,000,000..
..The list of horses under his care contains some of the fastest horses to ever race, including 9 Champion of Champions winners. Horses like World Champions Super Sound Charge, Miss Thermolark, Cash Rate, Dash For Speed and Refrigerator raced out of his barn. If you were fortunate enough to have walked down his shedrow over the years, these are a few more of the names you might have saw hanging on his stall gates; Band Of Angels, Such An Easy Effort, The Black Alliance, Easy Austin, First Down Dash, Winalot Cash, Sir Alabi, Lady Classic Cash, Splash Bac, Lady Juno, Denim N Diamonds, Sixy Chick, Tres Passes and his homebred Champion 3 Year Old Colt, Dashin Val..
..More than any other though, Schvaneveldt will forever be linked with the story of one legendary horse, by the name of Town Policy.. Owned by Schvaneveldt’s long time client Ivan Ashment, Schvaneveldt raised Town Policy from birth. As a two year old in 1977, the bay gelding had nine wins, including four stakes wins, a second place finish in the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs, and had earned over $336,000.
..But on the morning of October 20th 1977, just five days after his record setting win in the Fresno Futurity at Los Alamitos, Town Policy came up missing from his stall at Schvaneveldt’s southern California ranch. The horse that had captured the heart of his owner and trainer had vanished, he had been abducted sometime during the night. A quick investigation indicated the horse had been led out of his stall to a waiting vehicle.
..The story gained national attention, wire services carried stories about the massive hunt, and rewards were posted for the safe return of Town Policy. Calls started coming in with tips that the horse had been taken to everywhere ranging from northern California to south Texas. Another, that he had been loaded onto a ship headed to Australia, from San Francisco. The gelding’s identifying lip tattoo prohibited anyone but owner Ivan Ashment from racing him in the United States, so suspicions quickly focused south of the U.S. border, where reports had been coming in of a very fast bay gelding, winning a $100,000 match race near Mexico City.
..Down in Mexico, Town Policy’s disappearance was sending shock waves through the match racing circuit, where it’s a tradition by wealthy ranchers to match their horses in private races with as much as $100,000 at stake. Suspicions grew rampant, as the owners of match horses suddenly became convinced that everyone else had Town Policy.
..After several months of dead ends, the trail was getting hotter. Several jockeys returning from trips down to Mexico for match races, reportedly had seen him down there. With this news, Ashment and Schvaneveldt traveled south to search for him more than once, only to come up empty handed.. But on March 14th with the aid of some federales, they made their way to a dried up cornfield near Durango, Mexico and for the first time in nearly five months, the pair laid their teary eyes on a scratched up and banged up, Town Policy.. No one knows for sure what the Champion Two Year Old went through while he was down there, but everybody was sure happy to get him back.
..Once back in California, Schvaneveldt began conditioning the underweight Town Policy for a return to racing. The Los Alamitos Derby trials were only 10 weeks away, an optimistic goal, but the now 3 year old was on his way back with a vengeance. Two weeks before the trials, the decision was made to enter him. Under regular rider Kenny Hart, Town Policy won his trial in a record time of 21.62 seconds, then came back a week later to win the Los Alamitos Derby in 21.58. He was back.. Over the next five years, Town Policy would earn two more AQHA Championships and compile a record of 22 wins, 17 seconds and 8 thirds from 64 starts, with earnings of $862,000.
.. But on the night of January 3rd 1984, tragedy would strike once more for the 9 year old Town Policy. Entered in an allowance race at Los Alamitos with his longtime jockey Kenny Hart, Town Policy took a bad step and hit the inside rail of the track. Veterinarians confirmed a broken shoulder that would be impossible to mend. The following morning, after tearful goodbye’s from Hart, Schvaneveldt and his connections, Town Policy was laid to rest in the infield at Los Alamitos Race Course.
..It’s hard to imagine what it was like for him to put his hand on Town Policy for the last time. Hard to imagine a life like his. Take away the bright lights of the race track and the excitement of win circles, this story is really just about a man and his horse.
..Blane Schvaneveldt’s influence on quarter horse racing will be felt for generations to come. Our condolences go out to all of his family and friends..