Laurel, DE --- “It was amazing.”
That’s all 20-year-old drivercould say about winning five races on one card at Ocean Downs.
“Races were just working out for me,” the Bridgeville, Del. resident said.
The five-win night at Ocean Downs on Sept. 2 is so far the highlight of what has already been an exciting season for Henley, who has nearly tripled last year’s earnings already with $190,114 in money won as a driver in 2013.
In his third year driving, Henley, with a 2013 UDR of .265, has won 59 races lifetime and amassed earnings of $268,720 in 525 starts. Not bad considering he spends his days as an electrician.
“Eventually I’d like to have my own stable and just race horses,” he said.
In the meantime, he spends the first part of his day doing electrical work and heads to the barn in the afternoons. With the help of his family, including grandfather Melvin Cannon, Henley maintains a stable of five horses that he races in Maryland and Delaware. They include Scootin Cammie and Lady Gamelton, the horse Henley won his first race with.
While that Rosecroft Raceway win is one he’ll never forget, when asked what his most memorable win was Henley couldn’t decide.
“I like all my wins!” he said.
Henley said it was through helping his grandfather as a child that he became interested in harness racing. After learning to jog and train he was hooked.
What is it about sitting in the bike that he likes?
“How a horse grabs on,” he said. “How they feel when you move them off the rail. A lot of things go on when you’re on the track.”
He earned his driver’s license primarily through qualifying Cannon’s horses. Although he knew he wanted to drive, Henley said he always told himself he wouldn’t go out and ask for drives.
“I figured if people liked the way I drove I’d get catch drives,” he said.
Sure enough, over time Henley has managed to pick up some catch drives. He stayed quite busy at Ocean Downs this summer and was excited to be listed in every race at the half-mile track on Labor Day.
He says he’s thankful to all of the trainers who have given him drives, particularly, who puts him up on all of his horses.
Maryland traineris another trainer who has taken to using Henley.
“He’s done a good job for me,” Wilkins said, adding that Henley had steered pacer Pilgrims Easel to three wins at Ocean Downs.
Henley, who admittedly got his start driving cheap horses, does not dwell on how good or bad a horse is when he’s on the track.
“I just try to get a horse in the best position I can,” he said. “I started off driving bad horses. I was always driving the ones that had problems and just had to learn to drive them through it and make the best out of the race.”
He believes that has helped him pick up more mounts.
“I just try to drive the best I can and give them the most honest drive I can,” he said.
by Charlene Sharpe, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent