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Magee Discusses His Career

Published: February 26, 2015 11:47 am ET

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“When I started out racing on the Wisconsin fair circuit with my family I didn’t even know those types of numbers even existed. I started out at the bottom and just learned about the business every step of the way thanks to my family and friends in the business. Everything I have from all of this is honestly just an unexpected reward.”

After 40-plus years of climbing into the race bike, driver Dave Magee has decided to call it quits in order to pursue a new career as a steward at Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana.

The 61-year-old resident of Big Rock, IL has been the Chicago circuits most successful and respected reinsman throughout the last four decades winning 11,868 races and amassing more than $101 million in purse earnings throughout his career. Those numbers earned Magee a spot in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame back in 2001.

Always a mid-western boy at heart, Magee tried his hand on the east coast early in his career but quickly decided to return to his roots.

“Probably 30 years ago or so I figured I would give the tracks out east a shot because that seemed to be where all the big money and all the great horses were at,” explained Magee. “After just a couple of weeks there I just didn’t feel at home out there. That’s when I realized I wanted to get back my roots here and I’ve been at it ever since.”

Taking down driving titles at Balmoral Park, Maywood Park, Hawthorne and the former Sportsman’s Park and Quad City Downs throughout the years the ‘king’ of the Illinois circuit was still able to make a name for himself on the national scene. He guided the great Anniecrombie to a 1988 Breeders Crown championship and also captured the 1984 Canadian Pacing Championship with Mr Dalrae, a horse Magee would also guide to victory in the US Pacing Championship. Other top horses that Magee sat behind for major stakes victories included Odds Against, Keystone Raider, Continental Victory, Staying Together and Color Me Best.

“I have been blessed throughout my career to sit behind some unbelievable horses and to drive for some great trainers,” said the always-humble Magee. “Bob McIntosh has given me many great chances to drive World Champions for him and to travel across the country with them during their careers.”

In typical Magee fashion though, it is a nondescript Illinois-bred that ranks at the top of his list among his favourite horses.

“My favourite horse and maybe the biggest thrill of my career was driving Mi T Model to victory in the Filly Orange & Blue in 1982. She was born right in our backyard and she didn’t have very much natural ability,” he explained. “But she made up for all that with a huge heart and she wound up winning that race in just her second lifetime start. I never expected her to do that heading into that race.”

Magee also put himself in the spotlight on a global level when he captured the 1995 World Driving Championship, knocking off fellow competitors from Canada, Australia, France, Sweden, Italy and Germany among others. He also led the country in wins in 1994, piloting 630 horses to victory that season.

One stat that Magee is particularly proud of shows just how consistent and durable he has been throughout the years. Heading into the 2015 season, Magee had posted an amazing 36 straight years with more than $1 million in purse earnings and 38 straight seasons with 100 wins or more.

“I guess that shows I’ve been here a lot,” he chuckled. “Really it’s been tougher on my wife Kathy and our kids than it has been on me. I’ve sacrificed going to events, parties, weddings and that type of things on weekends but I always felt that I had an obligation to be at the track driving for the people that wanted me to drive their horses. As a family we didn’t get to go on a lot of vacations but we’ve made the best of it by turning weeks like at the State Fair in Springfield into family trips. They’ve all been so understanding about things like that and I cannot thank them enough.”

Magee will be honoured in a winner’s circle ceremony after Saturday’s fifth race at Balmoral Park.

(With files from Balmoral Park)

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