Wally Hennessey honoured track-side at Red Shores CDP
Boom - just like that, and Wally Hennessey is standing in the very spot were he started his harness racing career, receiving the Key To The City award from the Mayor.
Hennessey, 55, is just the sixth person ever to get the key award which he received Thursday, track-side at Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park. Mayor Clifford Lee made the presentation amidst a throng of Hennessey family members.
"I'm not much for saying words, but it's a pretty humbling experience," Hennessey said after the presentation. "I'm so proud and humbled and encouraged to be here in Charlottetown on beautiful Prince Edward Island."
He said the people of the city and the track taught him so much about life and racing.
"Everything happened so quickly and next thing you know, here I am standing (track-side)," said Hennessey
He is still in the game, now at Saratoga raceway in New York, but he got his start in Charlottetown and always talks it up to anyone and everyone, the crowd was told.
"Wally is a tremendous ambassador for the City of Charlottetown," said Lee.
Hennessey said he owes so much to his parents, Shirley and the late Joe Hennessey but things kind of got off the rails for his first win aboard Cambridge Frisco in 1975 at the CDP.
His dad Joe had the nickname "Two Hole" for his highly successful practice of holding back and going for the win in the stretch, said Wally.
"I was getting pretty anxious," said Wally. "I hadn't won any races yet. I threw everything (dad) told me out the door and just went, like we race today, just all you can go, as far and as fast as you can go.
"I got the job done, and he congratulated me, but he did say 'That isn't the way I told you to drive,' " said Hennessey, laughing.
"He nearly didn't make it (in harness racing)," said his mother Shirley.
"His father told him he would never make it in the racing game," she said.
Joe got his son a job aboard the Canadian Coast Guard ship Tupper, but Wally didn't sleep much at sea so he jumped ship in Saint John, N.B. and went right to the race track, said his mom.
"And the rest is history," she said.
Hennessey set Maritime records, then moved to Pompano, Florida raceway in 1987, eventually driving Moni Maker to spectacular wins and achieving over $55 million in purse earnings.