02/17/2015 8:22PM

Meadows: Eric Goodell notches career win 5,000

Chris Gooden
Eric Goodell is greeted in the winner's circle after his 5,000th win.

Eric Goodell notched career win 5,000 Tuesday at The Meadows when he piloted PL Eureka to victory in the 10th race. In the very next race, Goodell took a step toward his next milestone when he triumphed with Seafood Money.

Goodell, 41, grew up in Holly, MI, not far from the recently closed Sports Creek Raceway. He learned the sport working summers at Keith Crawford’s farm and decided in high school to become a driver.

“I bought a horse instead of going to college and was driving not too long after graduation,” he said. “Once you do it, it’s hard not to keep doing it. You have to know that you’re good enough, that you think right and use your head. It isn’t something I’d be doing if I didn’t consider myself good enough.”

Goodell drove at Sports Creek and Saginaw Harness Raceway before hitting his stride at Hazel Park, where he was the leading driver multiple times. When Michigan racing collapsed, he moved east and competed for awhile on the whirlwind Meadowlands-Yonkers-Pocono-Harrah’s Philadelphia circuit, then relocated to The Meadows, where he drives first call for trainer Paul Kennedy, a fellow Michigander.

“Paul understands horses,” Goodell said. “He makes things easy and simple.”

He said his most memorable races are those he’s won with long shots, especially a 2008 Hambletonian elimination with 22-1 Atomic Hall.

“We didn’t do any good in the final,” he said, “but that whole experience was really cool.”

Goodell said he hopes win number 5,000 will be the impetus for even greater things in the future.

“It’s kind of like I tell my friends — 5,000 is a big number, but if I win two races in one day, I feel I should have won 4. I should be around 7,000 by this time, but I slacked off the last few years. Maybe this will jump start me.”

(-edited release (Meadows-Evan Pattak)