After a succession of near misses on Pompano's last card before Saturday night, Wally Hennessey made no mistake in reaching the 8,000 win career milestone with his very first drive on the February 18 program. The 55 year old reinsman hailing from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, thus became the 21st driver in history to reach that plateau.
"I have to say it was a bit different this time because I don't take it
for granted anymore and maybe that's a function of age" Hennessey said in
a live trackside TV interview in front of a huge cheering crowd of supporters.
"With the previous milestones I guess I was pretty nonchalant about them
coming but this time I'm really savoring it because in our sport and business
you never know how many more moments like this are left out there in the future
In the Open II pace for a purse of $8,500, Hennessey sent Forty Carrots right
down the road for a dominant life's mark front end score in 1:51.2 on the
humid mid-February night. Kim Sears trains the 5 year old Riverboat
King-Mathamomics pacer for owner Richard Clair of Stafford, VA and Lance Gordon
of Clinton, NY.
"Reflecting back, it wasn't really that big of a decision to choose
Pompano over Ontario because that's what a lot of the guys were doing in the
1980's when I decided I wanted to make a move. I still remember early on at the
stable gate that I'd get nervous and think of turning back because I wondered
if I really had the talent to compete against these guys. Definitely, Moni
Maker was not only the defining horse of my career but she meant
everything to my career because she took me places beyond Pompano and the
New York Sires Stakes that I really hadn't expected to go. There are too many
people to thank right now that were great influences on me, and a huge help to
me, but very near the top of that list would be my brother Dan that trains
right here at Pompano. Dan was the force behind the countless
wins we've had together here in Florida" he added.
Hennessey was honored with induction into the Harness Racing Hall Of Fame and
Museum in 2007. He becomes the fourth member of the Pompano backstretch of
the 8,000 win club, along with Bruce Ranger, Doug Brown, and Dale
Hiteman. On this occasion he was joined in the winner's circle by his
family, fellow Maritime Canada import trainer Jim McDonald, and his good
friend and legendary retired jockey Lloyd Duffy. Hennessey was
also asked if he'll now set his sights on 10,000 lifetime wins.
"That's a big number and a great milestone and I certainly still have
the desire to compete, but in this business after you turn 50 you don't get the
drives that you used to" Hennessey said. "It's certainly a milestone
I'll try for, that is if I can get it before my time has run out."