09/01/2009 11:00PM

Bennett so busy No. 3,000 slips by

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Gerald Bennett was spending a rare moment Monday, relaxing with friends at Pinnacle Race Course. He had just watched Keynes win the first race at Thistledown when a friend suggested that he might be getting close to his 3,000th win. A phone call was made and Bennett was surprised to learn that Keynes was win number 3,005.

"One of my owners had checked before we came up to Pinnacle this year, and I was about 50 wins away," Bennett said. "But we've been so busy running everywhere that I just never checked on it again."

Bennett, 65, is currently running horses at Thistledown, Pinnacle, Presque Isle, and Mountaineer - and winning races in bunches. Through Tuesday, Bennett's career win total stood at 3,008. That afternoon he won two races at Pinnacle and one at Thistledown. Last Friday, he won three consecutive races at Thistledown and one at Presque Isle.

When reached by phone Tuesday evening, Bennett was, not surprisingly, behind the wheel of his pickup, hauling horses to another track. His 2008 truck already has 150,000 miles on it.

"I guess I do 100,000 miles or so a year, he said. "I'm going to stop at Thistledown for a couple of minutes, then I'm going on to Presque Isle."

Bennett, a native of Nova Scotia, started coming to Michigan to race in the mid-1970s. Lou Alosso, the assistant to racing secretary Bud Sears at Hazel Park, became a close friend and encouraged Bennett with ever increasing stall space until he became a Michigan regular.

"I won 17 or 18 titles in Detroit and a few at Great Lakes Downs," Bennett said. "Now, I'm pretty spread out, but I think I will win at Cleveland this year."

Bennett has 24 wins at Thistledown, 10 more than his nearest competition, and is looking for his second meet title at the track. He won the Great Lakes title five times in the nine seasons racing was held at the now closed western Michigan track.

Bennett's top horses include Secret Romeo, the "Michigan Monster" who won 17 stakes races from 23 starts, 10 of those at Great Lakes, and earned $865,790. But his best runner was Beau Genius, who won nine stakes in 1990, including the Hallandale Handicap which provided Bill Shoemaker with his last winning ride. Beau Genius earned over $1 million.

Bennett's horses have earned more than $25.5 million over the years while winning 21 percent of their starts. His barn has won 103 races this year from 446 starts.

Bennett's wife, Mary, runs the show at Presque Isle, where she gallops and does "everything else," according to Bennett. His son Gerry Jr. is often found hauling horses between tracks, despite being on crutches after breaking a leg last year and then a hip this year in a training mishap.

"He got banged up last year and can't gallop anymore, but he's still a hard worker," Bennett said.

"My kids are good kids," he added. "My son Dale has horses at Arlington, where he's winning about 30 percent of his starts."