Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey became the 22nd driver in harness racing history to reach the 7,000-win plateau on Wednesday when guiding Blessed Victory through the wire first in the 11th race at Pompano Park.
Starting from post nine in the non-winners trot, Blessed Victory led every step of the way en route to a seven-length triumph, covering the mile in 1:58.2 to give Hennessey his landmark victory.
“Any time you can reach a milestone like this, it’s an accomplishment,” Hennessey said from the Pompano winner’s circle following his winning drive. “I’ve had many opportunities from a lot of good people, and you don’t stand here with 7,000 races won having done it alone.”
A native of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and born to a family rich in the tradition of Standardbred racing, Hennessey was a dominant driver in the Maritimes throughout the early stages of his career, becoming the youngest driver to win the Maritime driving championship when tallying 136 victories in 1981, returning to claim the title again in 1982 and 1983 before leaving the comforts of home to ply his trade south of the border.
“I used to take some trips down to Pompano Park in the early '80s,” Hennessey recalled. “I would dream of driving down here, even if it was for just one race. Then, in 1986, I decided to make the jump and give it a try. I’ve been very fortunate to do as well as I have, and many of my wins have come at this track.”
Inducted to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., in July 2007, Hennessey is also a member of the Prince Edward Island and Florida Sports Hall of Fame, and will forever be linked with the illustrious career of Moni Maker, who he drove to victory across North America, along with a triumph in the Elitlopp in Sweden.
“It took me a long time to get this far, and I’ve had a lot of help through the years,” Hennessey said. “My brother Dan and I train horses together on a daily basis, and many times I’ve been lucky enough to just go along for the ride.
“It’s a competition, and I’m a very competitive person,” Hennessey added. “And while I know that I can’t go out there and win them all, I try to, and that, along with my great love of the horses, is my biggest motivation.”
After finishing 2007 with 274 wins to mark the 19th consecutive season that the 52-year-old horseman has won at least 200 races, Hennessey has no intentions of slowing down.
“Things are going pretty well right now and I still feel like I can compete at a pretty good level,” Hennessey said. “As long as I can stay healthy and keep getting the chances to drive that I’m fortunate enough to get, you might see me back here in a few years for win number 8,000.” (Pompano Park)