“It took me by surprise,” Weaver said with a laugh. “A big surprise. I like to think it’s a reward for longevity. Not many of us still own horses after 50 years.
“I was dumbfounded when they told me. My first thought was that somebody’s made a mistake.”
It’s no mistake. It’s a well deserved honor for the 77-year-old, who will celebrate 50 years in the business next year.
|Bill Weaver will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame next July.|
Bill started owning horses in 1964 and began breeding them in the early 1980s. He estimates that he has never bred more than 12 a year “because I ran out of money -- it’s as simple as that.”
“I just rent or lease and have somebody else take care of them,” he added. “That way I don’t have to have a big payroll. Let somebody else have the big payroll.”
The quality of horses has more than made up for the quantity, especially in 1988 when Valley Victory was the sport’s top 2-year-old colt trotter. He won 11 of 14 races before illness forced him to retire at age 3. Valley Victory’s offspring included Hambletonian winning colts Victory Dream and Muscles Yankee, and filly Continentalvictory.
Victory Dream and Muscles Yankee went on to produce Hambo winners, and Muscles Yankee’s sons Deweycheatumnhowe, Muscle Hill and Muscle Massive won the big prize three straight years from 2008-10.
Weaver was an owner for nearly 20 years before he began breeding.
“I just started in the racing part of the business, but I was not very successful in that,” he said. “And yet I keep trying. And I still do a little of that, and then we got into the breeding business.
“I actually got into it with my mom (Alita) after my dad died. I talked her into doing something. He started Valley High Stable and my mom had a place in Connecticut in the early 1980s. So my proposal to her was we’d buy a yearling and hope that she turned into something based on breeding and based on her lines.”
In 1972, Weaver moved from Connecticut to New Jersey because “at that time Jersey was a good place to be if you were in the horse business.”
It was in the Garden State that he began working closer with the legendary Dancer family. From 1965 until 2000, the year Vernon Dancer passed away, Weaver never had a trainer for one of his horses that was not from the Dancer family.
The teamwork provided some nice memories.
“I had some fun in the early (19)60s with Sonny Dancer with just the nice racehorses here in Freehold,” Weaver said. “Then of course we hit the big pot of gold with breeding Valley Victory.
“None of them particularly stand out to me. We had a filly (Valley Jewel) who had to retire after the Jugette and Stanley Dancer drove her for that one. She got lame at the Jugette but gave us a lot of fun. My mom loved that one.
“She wasn’t the top one that year but she beat the top one a couple times. We all had a great deal of fun with her. Vern Dancer trained her, Donald Dancer drove her and Vernon’s daughter Joan took care of her. It was a whole family operation.”
Obviously, the Dancers had a huge impact on Weaver’s longevity in the sport.
“If it weren’t for the Dancers I don’t think I’d be in the business anymore,” he said. “They were class people and it was a great experience. Every one of them were true gentlemen and ladies.”
Other notable horses bred by Weaver include U.S. and/or Canadian division champions Chocolatier, Laddie, To Dream On, Was It A Dream and Wheeling N Dealin plus millionaire trotting mare Elusive Desire.
|Nigel Soult photo|
|Goddess will start in the Bluegrass Stakes on Thursday at The Red Mile.|
Currently, he has bred a horse named Goddess, who is racing in Thursday’s second of three Bluegrass Stakes divisions for 2-year-old filly trotters at The Red Mile. Paul Kelley bought the horse, then offered a piece of it back to Weaver.
“I’ve been with Paul for a number of years,” Weaver said. “Paul’s way of doing business mainly is buying a lot of yearlings and then he comes around and sort of parcels them out.
“He bought Goddess and her dam (Macaria Hanover) was very special to me. He came by and said ‘Would you care to take a piece of her?’ and I said ‘Of course I would.’”
Asked what his hopes are for Goddess -- who has won three of six starts and $27,700 -- in Kentucky, Weaver let out a loud, husky laugh.
“My hopes are probably like the other people that are in the race,” he said. “Paul’s been very positive on her all year; she’s been racing fairly successfully in the Kindergarten (Series).
“I’m not going to be there, but I asked him before he went down there ‘Do you really think she can step up?’ and he said ‘Yes.’ So that’s where he’s at and I wish him and my other partners the best of luck.”
Regardless of what happens, the connections can always say that Goddess was bred by a Hall of Famer.
And that’s definitely not a mistake.