Tom Sells might like to see his grandchildren more often. Sells, with family in attendance, enjoyed a memorable night at The Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park on July 18, driving eight winners. In the process, the 66-year-old Sells became the oldest driver to win at least eight races at a harness racing pari-mutuel track on a single day.
Rick Plano had been the oldest driver to win at least eight races at a pari-mutuel track. Plano, at age 57, won eight times at Cal Expo on July 10, 2009.
"That was a fun night," Sells said. "I knew I had some pretty nice horses in there, but I didn't know I could win eight. But I knew I was going to win some before the night was over.
"I had two sons and four grandkids in the winner's circle about seven or eight times," he added, laughing. "One came down from Canada and the other from Pittsburgh. They happened to be there that night. That was good. I had my own cheering section. Somebody brought me some good luck. I don't know what it was."
Sells is enjoying a strong year in South Florida. He is second to Bruce Ranger in wins at Pompano Park for the current meet and his 21-percent win clip for the year is the best among all drivers at the track with at least 100 starts.
His .337 driver's rating, akin to a baseball player's batting average, is his best since 1977 when he posted a .377 mark for the year.
"I've been driving a lot for (trainers) Mike Deters and Eric Beach; those are two pretty good stables to drive for," Sells said. "When we open back up (in September) I should be in pretty good shape."
Sells is perhaps best known for driving, who was one of only two trotters to defeat in 's 1988 Horse of the Year campaign. , who beat in a leg of the Statue of Liberty Trot, finished second to in the Breeders Crown as well as in the division's money standings that season.
"I was in Europe five times I think with," Sells said. "Munich, Naples, Stockholm, Oslo -- all over the place. With those good horses, they pay everything for you. I got to see the world for free. It was very good."
Sells also enjoyed success with millionaire trotter Hellava Hush and won the 2007 American-National Stakes for 3-year-old male trotters with Prayer I Am.
"I've been pretty lucky getting the right accounts with the right people," Sells said.
A native of Ohio, Sells also has spent time racing in Maryland and Pennsylvania on his way to 2,493 career wins and $14 million in purses as a driver. He has raced a limited schedule, rarely topping 600 starts in a year.
"Usually what happened to me in the summertime is if I got one of those good horses I'd do good until the stakes started and then you lose the other mounts because you wanted to go (travel) with the good horse," Sells said.
Last weekend at Pompano Park, Sells won the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association Series final for 3-year-old male trotters with Trents Ringer, trained by Scott Schwartz. Other top wins for Sells have come with Deters' Mr Party Man and Prairie Jaguar, and Jim McDonald's Neptune Blue Chip.
When Pompano Park takes its summer break, Sells will take time off from driving, as he has in recent years rather than traveling north and racing at The Meadows in Pennsylvania.
"I'm going to stay here and take a little vacation, I think," Sells said. "It costs so much to go up there and most of the big stables have their own drivers now; I can get mounts, but I won't be getting too many favorites.
"I traveled so many years," he said, adding with a laugh, "This way I'm cutting down on expenses."
As for what he still most enjoys about racing, the answer is not surprising.
"Winning," he said. "That's the best part."
Especially when family is in town and the wins are coming in bunches.
by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications