After a succession of near misses on Pompano's last card before Saturday night, Wally Hennessey made no mistake in reaching the 8,000 win career milestone with his very first drive on the February 18 harness racing program.
The 55 year old reinsman hailing from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, thus became the 21st driver in history to reach that plateau.
"I have to say it was a bit different this time because I don't take it for granted anymore and maybe that's a function of age" Hennessey said in a live trackside TV interview in front of a huge cheering crowd of supporters.
"With the previous milestones I guess I was pretty nonchalant about them coming but this time I'm really savoring it because in our sport and business you never know how many more moments like this are left out there in the future for you."
In the Open II pace for a purse of $8,500, Hennessey sent Forty Carrots right down the road for a dominant life's mark front end score in 1:51.2 on the humid mid-February night. Kim Sears trains the 5 year old-Mathamomics pacer for owner Richard Clair of Stafford, VA and Lance Gordon of Clinton, NY.
"Reflecting back, it wasn't really that big of a decision to choose Pompano over Ontario because that's what a lot of the guys were doing in the 1980's when I decided I wanted to make a move. I still remember early on at the stable gate that I'd get nervous and think of turning back because I wondered if I really had the talent to compete against these guys.
"Definitely, Moni Maker was not only the defining horse of my career but she meant everything to my career because she took me places beyond Pompano and the New York Sires Stakes that I really hadn't expected to go. There are too many people to thank right now that were great influences on me, and a huge help to me, but very near the top of that list would be my brother Dan that trains right here at Pompano. Dan was the force behind the countless wins we've had together here in Florida" he added.
Hennessey was honored with induction into the Harness Racing Hall Of Fame and Museum in 2007. He becomes the fourth member of the Pompano backstretch of the 8,000 win club, along with Bruce Ranger, Doug Brown, and Dale Hiteman. On this occasion he was joined in the winner's circle by his family, fellow Maritime Canada import trainer Jim McDonald, and his good friend and legendary retired jockey Lloyd Duffy. Hennessey was also asked if he'll now set his sights on 10,000 lifetime wins.
"That's a big number and a great milestone and I certainly still have the desire to compete, but in this business after you turn 50 you don't get the drives that you used to" Hennessey said. "It's certainly a milestone I'll try for, that is if I can get it before my time has run out."
TRACK RECORD IN OPEN PACE
The ideal conditions favoring speed on Saturday night also produced a category track record in the $12,000 purse Open Handicap Pace. Deep Finesse with George Napolitano Jr. in tow emerged from a pocket trip to gun down the pacemaking B N Bad driven by Joe Pavia Jr. to stop the clock in 1:49.3. It was also the first sub-1:50 mile in the 2011-2012 meet at Pompano. Avantage in rein to Mickey McNichol was well back for third.
Peter Pellegrino trains Deep Finesse, a 6 year old son of-Deep River Woman, for Baron Racing Stable of Horsham, PA. The previous older horse track record had been shared at 1:49.4 by (1999), He Wants It All (2006), and (2008). The 1:48.4 tour by older gelding Delivered From Zin one year ago remains the fastest all time pacing race in Pompano's history.
Post time is 7:15 p.m. Eastern every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday at The Winter Capital Of Harness Racing. Free race night live streaming, handicapping selections by Hall of Fame inductee John Berry, and replays are in the 'racing' tab at www.theislepompanopark.com along with the racing schedule through July of 2012 for The Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park.
Forty Carrots gives Wally Hennessey his 8,000th career win:
Deep Finesse breaking the track record: