Dave Palone, The Meadows’ leading driver, is nine wins away from being the leading harness driver in the world. He has 16,743 wins as of Monday morning, Nov. 10.
Palone has 11 drives on Monday, 12 on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday, so it is possible the record-tying and breaking wins could come in the next few days. He needs eight more to tie the mark and nine to break it.
The current record of 16,751 wins is held by Heinz Wewering of Germany. Wewering, who is 64, trains about two dozen horses and his wins have come almost exclusively from horses he also trains. He has been German driving champion 29 times and twice won the World Driving Championship.
While Wewering continues to compete, the rate of his wins is declining substantially, while Palone’s have remained consistent, making it unlikely the record will change hands between those two.
Palone, is the rare harness horseman who did not learn the sport at the feet of family members. While he rode horses and participated in 4-H equine activities, Palone learned, together with his family, as a teenager when his late father Marion “Butch” Palone bought Standardbreds. His brother Mike is now a trainer.
Since his first win in 1983, Palone has 16,743 wins through Nov. 9. Horses he’s driven have won $122,371,896. The vast majority of those wins have come at The Meadows, though he has driven in major stakes races across North America. He has been leading driver at The Meadows for 25 consecutive years.
Palone was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2010 and in 2012 he became the all-time leading driver in North America, passing Herve Filion’s previous mark to reach 15,181 on July 5. Palone is seven-time Harness Tracks of America Driver of the Year, in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009 (tie) and 2013. On four occasions, he has been the leading race-winning driver in North America: 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2012.