Brian Zendt collected career win 3,000 when he drove Saratoga Gia to victory in the ninth race at The Meadows on Monday, November 4.
“It’s a good accomplishment for me because I don’t drive every race,” he said. “It seems a long time since I got 2,000.”
He took the first step towards his next milestone by bringing Cupcake Boss home — at 23-1 — in race 11.
Zendt, 43, who began driving in 1995, also has 249 career training wins. He currently operates a stable typically numbering three to five head but can see a day when he expands.
“I like to drive now, but I’d be lying if I said I like to drive all winter,” he said. “Right now, the kids are into barrel racing and school stuff, but when they’re older, it might be fun to take them to Florida in the winters.”
Zendt is part of a storied harness racing family. His dad, Bill, has been a leading trainer at The Meadows for decades and remains active and successful. Bill’s late father, Wilbur, was a prominent trainer/driver. Brian’s brother, Phillip, is a trainer based at The Meadows, and their sister, Bethann, is a longtime Standardbred owner and the wife of Dave Palone, harness racing’s “winningest” driver all time.
For all that, there was a time when he pondered a different career.
“I attended Slippery Rock University majoring in finance; I thought education would be a good back-up for me,” he said. “I had another year to go, but it was too much fun coming here and driving horses like Prescott Hanover on weekends. I thought that was pretty cool. I wish I would have finished school, but it’s no big deal now. I have a lot of friends who got their degrees and had trouble finding jobs.”
Among his favorite horses are a handful he’s driven for his father and the late trainer Walter “Boots” Dunn and Dunn Stable: Cam Mikey, whom he piloted to a third-place finish in the final of the 2014 Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids; the ill-fated Hidden Viggorish, a multiple track record holder at The Meadows who died as a result of foaling complications; the top trotter Sir Caviar, a win machine at The Meadows; Always Cam, who won the 2004 Breeders Crown Mare Pace with David Miller in the sulky.
Perhaps his most memorable trip came Feb. 3, 2016 at The Meadows with Dunn Stable’s fast-class trotter Trustworthy Kid. Zendt piloted the homebred to an improbable victory — just hours after Dunn’s death.
“That was pretty special,” he said. “He won against all odds, coming five wide and just swooping everybody. You could hear a pin drop after that race.”