05/13/2015 2:13PM

Harness: Dave Palone notches 17,000th win

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Chris Gooden
Dave Palone entered the harness racing Hall of Fame in 2010.
Already harness racing’s leader in career victories, driver Dave Palone reached higher into rare air Wednesday at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino when he recorded career win 17,000. The landmark win came with Upfront Dean in the first race.

“It’s a nice number,” Palone said, “and you have to wonder if anybody else will be able to get there. I know I won’t see it.”

The past five years have been a whirlwind of milestones for Palone, including:

On July 4, 2010, he was inducted into the Harness Racing Living Hall of Fame.

On March 27, 2012, he drove career winner 15,000, becoming only the second driver in North America, and the third internationally, to achieve that level.

On July 5, 2012, he notched career win 15,181 to surpass Herve Filion, who was trackside for the event, as the all-time North American wins leader.

On Sept. 24, 2013, he collected career win 16,000.

On Nov. 14, 2014, he recorded career win 16,764 to move past Germany’s Heinz Wewering as the world’s winningest driver — and he received a video tribute from the gracious Wewering.

Those highlights notwithstanding, Palone said he has no specific professional targets for the near term.

“I wish I could give you something more goal oriented,” he said, “but I plan to continue showing up every day to try to win races.

“I’ve been so lucky. Over the last 30 years, I’ve seen so many drivers come and go. To think I can still be doing what I love at 53 is great. It should be an incentive for young drivers — what a long and fulfilling career you can have if you just keep your nose to the grindstone.”

He indicated he expects a moderate Grand Circuit workload this season, which will leave him plenty of time for other loves — family, golf and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“The last couple of years, I just winged it (the Grand Circuit): whatever I picked up, I picked up. The top guys travel with their horses, so it’s easier for them to get in their plane and go to a spot. I’m pretty content with racing top horses when they come to town here and traveling when somebody gives me a call.

“I wouldn’t trade my situation with anybody in the sport. Would I like to be in all the good races? Sure. But there’s a lot to be said for doing exactly what you want to do when you wake up each morning.”

(edited release-Meadows)