Tony Hall is on the hunt for wins

10:46 AM 21 Mar 2014 NZDT
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Tony Hall, harness racing
Tony Hall is congratulated after his 4,000th career win by Kim Hankins of MSOA

Harness driver Tony Hall has a pretty prestigious win column. Earlier this year, Tony notched his 4,000th career victory.

The way he is racking up so many wins is quite remarkable but to achieve that level of wins, it sure takes a lot of time and Tony being a family man, he always manages to create a fine balance within the daily grind of work and family.

"My wife (Ashlee) has a few horses she trains and I work with her" Tony explains. "Right now we are based at the Meadows in Pennsylvania and we are stabled off track. So that's where I am 90% of the time. I help her in the morning with the horses."

For the winter season, with Tony driving at the Meadows, he hasn't had to do much traveling thanks to good planning.

"Through the week, I work with her horses and as far as my son, when he is done school he comes and stays with me in the summer." Tony says. As for quality time with family, on off days, Tony always ensures they go out for an activity that is not horse related. "I have a 14 year old son, so I try to be involved with him as much as possible.... Try and take tropical vacations whenever possible."

Tony says he never went to college and he hopes his son will go to college and find a career he truly enjoys. "I've always tried to lead him to something that is more stable, more consistent. In our business it's very up and down, I've had years where I've made close to $300,000 and years where I make less than $100,000. (The business) fluctuates so much... I'd like him to have the opportunity where (business) can only go up and not worry about things going down." The sense of security Tony wants to provide his family is touching, doing all he can so his son can focus on the positives and not heed the negatives.

Away from the track, Tony enjoys the outdoors becoming one with nature. "I like to fish and deer hunt. I mostly get to do that in the fall, mainly deer but sometimes turkey but mainly white tail deer." Tony hasn't gotten his trophy kill yet, as he's been limited on time, but does admit he's had some close encounters.

This coming Saturday, Tony will be venturing to the Meadowlands for a driver's series. The series is six Saturday nights. When at the Meadowlands, Tony predominantly drives for trainer Ron Burke's stable and if possible, try and catch on where possible. "Once I confirm with Ron that I'm going to go (to the Meadowlands), word spreads around that I'm going to be there. So truthfully, it's all word of mouth and when you commit to one guy, word spreads around." Tony explains.

"One good thing about New Jersey is they have a good publicity office. Once they get the word, they spread it." Since Tony will be driving Saturday nights at the Meadowlands, he's is planning on driving at Pocono Downs on Sundays. "I'll do that for a while, so long as the opportunity is there. Pretty much, I will go wherever I am needed."

Horse racing and the purses for that matter are built on gambling and the revenue from gambling patrons. Everyone has their opinion on gambling, the pros and cons and everything in between.

For Tony, simply put he is not a gambler, with the exception of putting himself at risk every time he gets on to the racetrack. "Honestly, I hate gambling of any sort." Tony openly says. "If I go to a casino, it's to eat at a restaurant or go to a bar at a casino with a group of friends. I've never been one to gamble, you hear people talk about it, but I just ignore it." Tony doesn't condemn anyone nor does he look down on anyone who gambles, it's just not his cup of tea. "The way I look at it" Tony says, "to each their own and just because I don't do it, there's a million other people that do."

"I understand that keeps us going but I am being honest from my standpoint as an individual. I don't consider (gambling) a disgrace."

Reflecting on the idea of Tony's risk when racing doesn't really play on his mind, "I've been doing this my whole life so I don't even think about it." Tony admits. "I've been in accidents where I come back 24 hours later and drive a full card. It doesn't register, it's a part of the business that something can happen."

With over 4,000 wins under Tony's belt, he says "I want to keep getting better, do the best I can do in the career I chose... and find ways to better my stats and in other ways that strengthen my weak points and I can only do that by driving more races."

In all of Tony's trips, one memorable race he recalls in particular was when he was driving in a stakes race at the Meadows in 2006. "It was in the Adios, I got beat by a nose in the opening race of the Asioa in the eliminations and missed the finals. To be that close to a race of that stature was definitely it, a big moment for me." (The 2006 Adios was won by 20-1 shot, Cactus Creek, driven by Mike Lachance and trained by Erv Miller.)

If Tony had a choice between driving pacers or trotters, hands down Tony would choose to drive trotters. "The trotter was the first of the Standardbreds, back in the day; the trotter was more of the natural gait. They can be more of a challenge, with a trotter you really have to watch how you handle them compared to a pacer."

"A good bred trotter, when the breeding is there and it's with a good barn, it's an unbelievable feeling." Tony explains. "Just a natural that's quick on its feet is hard to find. When you do (find one), it's unbelievable and a great feeling."

One trotter Tony mentions that he liked was Deweycheatumnhowe, but there isn't one currently that he can pick out and feel the same about.

The race Tony hopes to win most is the highly regarded Hambletonian. Tony's other milestone he'd like to achieve is 5,000 wins. "I've always said to myself, if I could have 5,000 wins that would be a huge milestone for me and whatever happens after that would be a bonus. I never expected to be at this number (of wins) at this age when I was young." Tony continues, "I would love to win one prestigious race on the grand circuit and if I could pick, it would be the Hambletonian. It would be a great achievement."

It would be tremendous if Tony won the Hambletonian as his 5,000th win.

Tony expresses he is not a cold weather person and when it's time to step away from racing, he'd like to relocate somewhere warm, like Florida where his biggest decision would be where to fish.

By: Roderick Balgobin www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova

 

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