, yes the same Walter Paisley who “retired” from driving again last year at the age of 71, was back in action Saturday afternoon at the Whiteside County Fair at Morrison and winning races as a 72-year-old.
Paisley’s familiar “Green and White Colors” were in the bike when the 5-year-old gelding pacer Sober As A Judge won the second race in 2:05 on a “good” track. Three races later “Butch” steered Sober As A Judge to a repeat victory in 2:08.4 for long-time Wisconsin owner and trainer Robert Wand.
“I think it’s a suicidal thing,” said Paisley laughing. “I figure when it’s time to go you might as well go doing the thing you always like doing, and that’s driving horses.”
I asked Paisley what got him back in the bike this time and he went on to explain:
“I’ve known Bob Wand forever,” continued Illinois Hall of Fame driver. “The horse Sober As A Judge is well bred (a son of Better’s Delight) but he never grew much after Bob got him as a 2-year-old. Plus, the horse was always running. He would just take off and run.
“I started messing around with the horse with Bob and we got the horse where he wasn’t too bad. The horse does have some talent when he sticks to pacing.
“Bob asked me if I would come over to Morrison and drive the horse for him and told him all right, so I did. It’s about 40 miles south of us,” said the Stockton, IL resident.
When I informed Paisley that he now has five consecutive winning drives over the past two years he replied: “Yea, I know. I like winning.”
Paisley now has 5,722 career victories to prove it.
I cut my conversation short with “Butch” telling I had to get going before it got too dark outside.
“I’ve got to find my old baseball glove and hope I don’t throw my arm out. Maybe it really isn’t too late to make my comeback.”
Not surprisingly, the call ended with a lot of laughing on the other end of the phone line.
By Mike Paradise
The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association