Twenty-nine years after he drove his first career winner, Dave Palone became the winningest driver in North American racing history when he directed the 2-year-old filly trotter Herculotte Hanover to a 2:00.1 score in the eighth race Thursday afternoon, July 5, at The Meadows.
The win was the 15,181st of Palone's career, surpassing the record 15,180 wins posted by Hall of Famer Herve Filion.
Filion, who was at The Meadows in late March when Palone won his 15,000th career race, was also on
hand to see Palone move into the top spot on the list, a ranking Filion had held since 1971.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame himself two years ago, Palone reached the historic milestone at the track he has called home ever since that maiden win on March 15, 1983, with his own 4-year-old pacing mare Reds Folly in 2:04.2. In only a few short years Palone became the top driver at The Meadows and he has now led the track's drivers' list for 23 consecutive years.
"I never dreamed I would break a record of this magnitude when I started my career, and to be mentioned with Herve when it comes to wins is an honor,” the 50-year-old Palone recently said as he converged on Filion's record. "But I didn't accomplish this alone. It was the investment of time and money by a lot of owners and trainers and the trust, talent and guts of a lot of Standardbred horses.”
After posting six wins on Tuesday, July 3, Palone came into Thursday's card one win behind tying Filion. He notched that victory in the third race with the 5-year-old pacer Well Al B in 1:52.2 for trainer Ron Burke. It took five drives for Palone to surpass Filion with his winning steer behind Herculotte Hanover, and it also took a few extra minutes afterward as the judges posted the "inquiry” sign and reviewed the last turn of the race for a possible violation of the pylon rule when Palone angled into the passing lane. The stewards ruled there was no violation and made the race "official.”
"I just wanted to get the job done and I want to thank the judges for leaving me up,” a smiling Palone said in the winner's circle, joined by his wife, Bethann, and three daughters.
The win came with a filly owned by Joe Sbrocco and Ed Mullinax's Up Front Racing, the latter of whom owned P-Forty-Seven, who Palone drove to victory in the 2005 Little Brown Jug.
The Meadows' Racing president, Mike Jeannot, told Palone, "Your accomplishment here today is the most significant the sport of harness racing will see in our lifetime.” Jeannot also announced that July 25 will be "Dave Palone Night” at The Meadows, where a specially-made bronze bust of the record-setting driver will be unveiled.
Also on hand was U.S. Trotting Association president Phil Langley, who quipped to Palone that "I told you about three weeks ago that this is just a step on your way to 20,000 wins.”
As he neared the record, Palone announced he will donate $1,000 each to horse adoption groups New Vocations and Standardbred Retirement Foundation in the names of the owners and trainer of the horse in which he set the record.