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Palone On Upcoming Milestone


Published: April 26, 2009 3:50 pm ET

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Winning harness races is what drives Dave Palone, which works out well because winning races is what Dave Palone does at a rate surpassed by few others.

Palone, 47, enters Monday’s card at The Meadows needing 13 wins to reach 13,000 for his career.

The Waynesburg, PA, native trails only Herve Filion (15,174) and Cat Manzi (13,306) for the most victories in harness racing history. Palone has won or shared the Harness Tracks of America Driver of the Year Award five times, and he’s amassed more than $72 million in career purses.

This year, as of April 21, Palone had won 208 times, which ranks third in North America, just 11 victories behind Jody Jamieson and 63 behind Aaron Merriman. Palone has been the leading driver at The Meadows for two decades.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m a very competitive person,” Palone said. “I just don’t accept mediocrity. I expect a lot out of myself. I’ve been given a lot of good opportunities, and I feel with the opportunities I get, I need to produce. I won’t accept anything but winning races.”

A period during which Palone could not win races – he was sidelined seven weeks in 2007 with a broken leg as the result of a racing accident – might have made him an even better driver. Last year, he established career highs with 885 wins, $10 million in purses, and a .446 driver’s rating.

“I learned two things: Never take anything for granted and also you never know when your last drive is going to be,” Palone said. “I think it’s made me come to the track more prepared. Since the accident I’ve gotten myself in probably the best physical shape of my life; it forced me to go to rehab and get in shape.”

Since the start of the 2000 season, Dave Palone has won 6,135 races. Only Tony Morgan, with 6,638, has won more. During that period, Morgan has driven an average of 1,100 more races per year. Palone prefers to stay close to home; he won 804 times last season at The Meadows, where he made 87 percent of his starts.

“He works a lot harder than I do,” Palone said of the well-traveled Morgan, adding with a laugh, “If I have one bad habit that’s going to keep me from the (all-time win) number, it’s probably golf. I’ve never been one of these guys who could work seven days a week or drive at two tracks in one day. I’ve done it, but I don’t like it. I like the situation I’m in here. I get plenty of opportunities.”

It is conceivable, given his recent history, that Palone could overtake Filion in three years.

“I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think about it somewhere down the line,” Palone said. “The whole key is staying healthy and getting the opportunities. You just have to go in there and do your best and the numbers take care of themselves. I’m very fortunate to be in the position to drive top horses. I wish every driver out there had the same opportunities that I’ve had.”

(The Meadows)

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