© File photo
Charlottetown native Wally Hennessey
An Island native will join the ranks of the elite in harness racing when he is inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
Wally Hennessey, 56, was born and raised as part of the Hennessey clan on Euston Street in Charlottetown and will now become a Hall of Fame member in the trainer-driver category.
Hennessey started his career at the Charlottetown Driving Park before dominating at Exhibition Park Raceway in Saint John, N.B. He ventured to Florida in 1986 and went on to have one of the most storied careers in the sport, winning more than 8,500 races and banking $55 million in purses.
His stakes credits include wins in the Breeders Crown, the Nat Ray, The Matron, the Woodrow Wilson, the Classic Oaks and the Hambletonian Oaks. He has also sat behind a number of New York and Florida sires stakes champions.
His greatest feat was driving arguably the greatest trot mare of all-time, Moni Maker, to the majority of her $5.5 million in lifetime earnings for trainer Jimmy Takter. Moni Maker and Hennessey captured a number of top European stakes races, including the Elitlopp in Sweden.
Hennessey beat out Yves Filion of Quebec and William Gale of Ontario to earn himself a spot in the Hall of Fame. The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame has honoured the best in Canadian harness and thoroughbred racing every year since its inception in 1976.
The only other Islander in the hall for the trainer-driver category is Alberton native Joe O’Brien. In the builders category, Islanders George Callbeck, Captain John Cruickshank and Lt.-Col. Dan MacKinnon are also Hall of Famers.
It is awards season in Maritime harness racing as individual horsemen’s associations hold their annual awards banquets to honour the best of the 2013 season.
The P.E.I. Standardbred Horse Owners Association awards banquet saw Saulsbrook Alana clean up, sweeping the two-year-old pacing filly division, as well as being honoured as horse of the year and pacer of the year.
Provincial Finance Minister Wes Sheridan received recognition with the Kentucky of Canada Award for outstanding service to Island harness racing.
In a fitting tribute, husband and wife Brian and Isabel MacPhee were honoured as horseman and horsewoman of the year after a lifetime of involvement in racing.
The Prince County Horseman’s Club awards banquet had 2013 Governor’s Plate champion Wild Dragon take home horse of the year honours, while his trainer, Darren Trainor, was awarded the Joe O’Brien Memorial award. Horseman of the year was awarded to the late Philip Doucette.
The Truro Raceway banquet had St. Lads Dagwood take away horse-of-the-year honours while Warren Grove’s Jonah Moase took home the hardware as the top trainer with more than 100 starts.
Opening day at the Charlottetown Driving Park is set for April 26 with qualifiers slated to start next week.
The qualifying dashes will be held on Tuesday, April 15; Saturday, April 19 and Tuesday, April 22, all at 1 p.m. Racing at the Summerside Raceway gets underway on Monday, May 19.
The Maritime Province’s Harness Racing Commission has announced the meetings leading up to the 2014 season.
The Charlottetown paddock meeting will be held Tuesday, April 22 at 7 p.m. in the grandstand of Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at The Charlottetown Driving Park. While the drivers meeting is set the afternoon of opening day, Saturday April 26, at 1 p.m., in the Women’s Institute Room of Red Shores Charlottetown.
Scootin For Joy has been on fire since relocating to the United States.
She was a winner Monday night at Dover Downs in Delaware in 1:53.1 for a $17,500 purse with Ron Pierce in the bike. The four-year-old daughter of Western Paradise-Scooting Annie has four wins from five starts in 2014, good for $34,125 in seasonal earnings. She also shaved a full six seconds off her lifetime mark when she won in 1:52.1 at Dover Downs in March.
Nicholas Oakes' column appears in
The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.