Day At The Track

Casey Leonard notches 2,000th victory

04:00 PM 19 Jun 2016 NZST
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Casey Leonard Leonard 2,000th career victory
Casey Leonard guided Uncle Bud to a half-length victory in Saturday's 4th race for his 2,000th career victory.
Friends, family and members of the Hawthorne driving colony joined Leonard 2,000th career victory with a winner's circle ceremony after Saturday's 4th race.

Almost three-years to the day after notching his 1,000th career driving victory, Hawthorne's defending winter-meet harness racing driving champion and current summer-meet leading reinsman Casey Leonard had cause to celebrate another milestone as he posted his 2,000th career victory with the Nelson Willis trained Uncle Bud in Saturday's fourth race.

A third generation horseman, who sports a business management degree from Western Illinois University, Leonard has been dominating the driving ranks in the Chicagoland area over the past few seasons winning titles at Hawthorne and the now shuttered Balmoral & Maywood Park racetracks.

Despite growing up in and around the sport becoming a driver or trainer in the game was never number one at the top of the charts for the 38-year-old Leonard.

"I worked in warehouse and supply chain management before my uncle (Gary) passed away in 2000," said Leonard. "That's when dad (Terry) asked me if I would come back home and help with the farm so I did. Initially I had just planned on training some horses to help out but then I received the opportunity to drive some very nice horses and wound up making some good money with them. That's when the driving end of the business really started to get into my blood."

Having come a long way from his first career victory at the Woodstock County Fair back in 1996, the quiet but confident Leonard has been like a fine wine, continuing to get better and better with age. Casey has posted more than 1,600 of his 2,000 career wins since 2010 while more than $8.2 million of his $11.8 million in career driving earnings have come in the past 7 seasons.

"I don't regret for one minute starting my career a little later than most guys do," said a joyful Leonard in the winner's circle. "Things have really taken off for me over the past few years so maybe it was some master plan that it's all worked out the way it has."

When asked if the grind of commuting nearly 80 miles each way from his home ever seemed like it was just a little too much Leonard answered with a resounding no.

"It does make for some long days and nights training horses in the mornings and then coming into drive at night but this is my job and how many people get the chance to say they can have this kind of fun at their job," said Leonard. "I also get the honor to drive for most of the top trainers here on the Chicago circuit so I darn well better get them some winners."

Leonard also wasted no time starting on the path to 3,000 career victories by guiding Summer Shandy, who is trained by his dad Terry, in the next race of the night.

Tom Kelley

 

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