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Burley E. Parke

Burley E. Parke ( March 21, 1905 – October 4, 1977) was an American racehorse trainer who was inducted in the National Museum of Racing - Hall of Fame in 1986.

Burley Parke was born in Albion, Idaho, one of 12 children (8 boys and 4 girls) of parents Anson and Julia Harris Parke. Anson was a stockman and rancher who moved from Utah to Albion, Idaho and later to the small nearby town of Declo. Anson raised many animals including sheep and horses. Each year, when the county fair opened, Anson often took some of his horses to the races. Although he would ride, as his sons became old enough and had sufficient skills, they took their turns at riding the horses. Many races were won and the boys small size and experience soon caught the attention of those who raced in the big horse racing circuits of Nevada and California.

Burley and 4 of his brothers found careers in Thoroughbred Racing, all of them starting off as jockeys. Vosco was the first to leave home then Burley. He raced in Reno, Nevada and then on to California’s Santa Anita and Tiajuana tracks. He was successful and was second leading rider in the country in 1921, but after a couple of seasons, he became to big to ride. So he tried his hand as a jockey’s agent and then went on to assistant training. His brothers, Ivan, Chuck and Monte came along behind him and became successful in their own right. Ivan was the nation’s leading jockey in 1923 and 1924. He won the first race ever run at Hialeah Park in Florida. Monte was the nation’s second leading rider in 1933.

Burley channeled his natural skills and knowledge of horses to training. From 1942-1944, training for John Marsh, a retired railroad contractor and one of America’s richest men at the time, he won 9 Futurities. The experts found this to be an amazing feat. Within racing and media circles, Burley was respectfully called “The Futurity Man”. Two of his favorite horses were full brothers Occupation and Occupy (by Bull Dog out of Miss Bunting) who both had won the Washington Futurity one year after the other.

Charles Howard, who owned Seabiscuit, hired Burley to run his racing stable in the late 1940’s. It was then that Howard bought the Hall of Fame horse Noor from the Aga Khan and brought him to America. Parke saw a horse with great promise but one that was stubborn and ill tempered. Having raced in Europe, the American tracks and style of racing was unfamiliar to Noor. Parke used his skill and patience to slowly convince Noor to use his speed to become one of the great racehorses of American racing beating the great Citation 4 times. This was the highlight of Parke’s career.

Noor was retired after winning the Hollywood Gold Cup in December 1950. Burley also retired and turned his attention to his 55 acre fruit ranch in Santa Rosa, California. He remained there until in 1959 when, at the recommendation of Burley's brother, Ivan, Louis Wolfson, a new comer to thoroughbred racing, convinced Burley to return to training. Wolfson put Parke in charge of his Harborview Farm horses which would stable at Belmont, Saratoga and Hialeah with strings also racing in Chicago and New Orleans. With Harbor View Farm stable, Parke trained many notable horses including Raise a Native, one of the premier stallions of thoroughbred breeding, and Roman Brother, who was named American Champion Older Male Horse and co-Horse of the year in 1965.

Burley was a soft spoken man who was reserved and polite. In private circles he had a great sense of humor and loved practical jokes. He was well respected not only by his peers and racing fans but also by his family. Burley married Marion L. Eddy and had a daughter, Virginia M. Parke. He later divorced and married Dorothy Anderson Bosley, a single mother of 5 children whom he met on a visit home to Declo, Idaho. He took on this young family and served as a respected stepfather and with Dorothy, fathered 4 more of his own children; Marlyce, Marvin, Gary and Eldon. He was a good father who spent considerable time with his children. Burley Parke ranked among America's top five trainers on seven occasions. With a great contribution to and success in American thoroughbred racing, Parke retired in 1967 and moved with his family to Phoenix, Arizona. He spent the summer months with his family in his beloved Idaho. His passion was the outdoors. If he wasn’t fishing he was camping beside a stream or gardening in flower beds or vegetable gardens. He died of a heart attack in Burley, Idaho October 4, 1977 and is buried in Albion, Idaho.

References

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

  1. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
  2. Newspaper Archives, an on-line source for historic newspapers
  3. Ancestry.com
  4. Personal knowledge of Don & Robert Bosley (stepsons of Burley Parke)
  5. Family records in pocession of the Burley Parke family


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