Although he'd posed for winner's circle photographs 7,499 times prior to the $20,000 Mares Open Pace on Friday evening at the Isle Casino Racing at Pompano Park, Wally Hennessey found it tough to contain his enthusiasm upon reaching a major career milestone.
"I wasn't on edge pressing for it or nervous about it like I was when I was close to my first 1,000 wins," Hennessey said in a live TV post race interview after he teamed Flip For Love to victory in a 16-1 upset. "Really, I thought I had an unexpected close call for the win back in the first race tonight when a second over trip with Kennairnmilleyscam worked out and she just missed by a step. To get to 7,500 career wins is just a great feeling since early in my career I couldn't have dreamed of driving in 7,500 races altogether, much less winning that many."
It was fitting that the milestone driving win by Wally Hennessey came with a horse trained by his brother, Dan.
He sat well off the pace in the weekly top distaff event in South Florida as Esmeralda Semalu with Joe Pavia Jr. was up to take the lead from Nillabomb and Anthony Napolitano after the 26.3 front quarter. Following the half in :56 seconds, 'Esmeralda' couldn't get a backstretch breather as David Ingraham brought Bling up to battle to the last turn in 1:24. That favored pair tired in mid-stretch and Hennessey seized the moment to rally the hard closing Flip For Love on to mow down the leaders in 1:53.
Flip For Love is a 5-year-old daughter of Riverboat King-Triple Flip owned by Gary Greenhouse, Harvey Friedman, and Ronald Rubenstein all of New York.
Hennessey might be best remembered as the driving partner of world champion trotting mare Moni Maker during her reign of supremacy from 1995-2000. His career, however, has easily transcended that one standout and the hallmark of his career has been consistency. He's amassed driving earnings surpassing $1 million every year since 1990. Hennessey's top year for wins at 419 was 1995 and his top career year for driving purse earnings at almost $4.3 million was 1997.
"If it wasn't for all the people that helped me so much along the way I wouldn't be standing here talking about this now...from the time I started back in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and after I moved to try Florida and New York almost 25 years ago," he added. "In the summer months up at Saratoga I've stopped travelling for the New York Sires Stakes but I have no intention of even considering retiring. I plan to be driving horses well past the age of 60. When I was younger there were times when I'd try to put a horse into a hole between horses that not even a mouse much less a horse could fit into, but as the years go on you mature past that. Getting this milestone with a longshot that I didn't expect to have much of a shot with is really why we race horses...and why we love to do this." (Pompano Park)