Dave Palone, foreground, relaxes before a race at The Meadows with fellow driver Mike Wilder, center, and his friend Tim Caputo.
By Brandon Boyd Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Meadows harness driver Dave Palone reached the number he needed to break Herve Filion's North American career victory record of 15,180 Thursday at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County.
"This number, I've been dreaming it for so long, and to get it over with, it's great," Palone said.
Palone needed two wins to break the record coming into Thursday. In the third race, he tied Filion's record with Well Al B, trained by Ron Burke. He beat the record in the eighth on Herculotte Hanover, a 2-year-old filly trotter trained by Jim Arledge Jr. and making her debut.
Palone had 14 races on his card in advance, but he also replaced a driver in one that was not on his original card. He expressed surprise at Herculotte Hanover being the horse that enabled him to reach 15,181.
"This is probably the last horse I had on the card [Thursday] that I thought I could count on because it was her first start," he said. "You never know with these first-time starters ... I knew if she had some trot finishing I'd be OK."
And, as Herculotte Hanover crossed the finish line, Palone's mind raced just as fast as his horse.
"There was like a thousand things going through my head right then, you know, like this is actually going to happen right now."
Except it nearly did not.
The crowd on hand, including Filion, was left in suspense for a few moments as a light went off for a possible pylon violation, meaning the filly went outside the pylon and affected the race.
Ultimately, it was decided there was no violation.
"I didn't think they could take her down. She really didn't affect the outcome of the race, she just ran in on a pylon. It was something that I've dealt with every day here, and I kind of know the rules, so I knew I wasn't in jeopardy," Palone said.
When he reached the winner's circle, Palone embraced his family, then shook hands with and hugged Filion, whom Palone grew up watching on television and idolized.
"I'm very happy for Dave. I'm happy for the industry of harness racing. It's doing good," Filion said. "I'm very happy that someone broke [the record], and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, Dave Palone."
After winning, Palone said it felt like a lot of pressure was off.
"It's not easy to win races, especially when you've got so many people pulling for you," Palone said. "I don't ever want to think about numbers again as long as I live, honestly."
"I don't ever want to think about numbers again as long as I live, honestly."