There’s an old adage that says, “save the best for last” and that’s exactly what Billy “Zeke” Parker Jr. did today (July 16) when he reined Topgun Raider to victory for his 11,000th harness racing career win in the 13th and final race at Monticello Raceway on July 16.
Parker’s milestone victory came after he left strongly from the pole position and allowed the betting favorite Paulimony, driven by Jimmy Taggart, Jr. to take command before the quarter pole. From there Zeke stalked the leader and in the lane he rallied his pacer enough to score a head victory in the final strides in 1:56.3 clocking.
“I’m really glad I won my 11,000th with Bobby Merton’s girl friend’s horse,” Parker said during the blanket presentation ceremony . “When I had a big stable Bobby worked for me for over ten years.”
Parker who’s not known to be very emotional had to wipe tears from his eyes when he was joined by family, friends, management and some fellow drivers who came in from the paddock to be part of the winner’s circle ceremonies. And had it not been the last race on the program undoubtedly more drivers would have joined the throng.
Earlier on the card Parker scored his 10,999th victory when he guided 14 –year-old pacer How Forever Feels home first in 1:57.4.
Asked if he was nervous as he neared 11,000 wins Parker unashamedly admitted; “ Yeah, I was. I was pushing a little at the end at the end.
“I’m glad it’s over and I’m proud, 11000 is a lot of wins.”
The Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association gave Parker a Bulova watch engraved with his milestone victory. And he was also presented a cake stating Congratulations Zeke on 11,000 wins.
Parker is currently third in races won here this season with 123. Over the years he’s won 18 driving titles at the Mighty M along with titles at Yonkers Raceway, Foxboro Raceway , Scarborough Downs and Lewiston Raceway, the latter three in Maine, his native state.
Parker has always been an all-around horsemen and although the US Trotting Association has Parker with 1223 training wins that number was only tabulated since 1991. He had big stable of horses for over 15 years prior to the catch-driver phenomenon and those previous training victories are not recorded.
“You know, when I came here in 1985 I just had my 2000th win,” Parker recalled. “I’ve won a lot of races here over the years,”
When told he is now only 38 wins behind fellow Mainer Walter Case, Jr. Parker thought for a moment and then said. “I’ll probably beat that but it’s a shame (except for the few times he drove in 2008) because Casey hasn’t driven a horse in ten years.”
by John Manzi