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Horse Racing: Palone races off with top honors

Sunday, January 19, 2003

By Pohla Smith, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

In 2002, Dave Palone again topped all Meadows drivers in number of wins. He also ranked first in purses-won and percentage of finishes on the board, according to Roger Huston, the voice of the track and an inveterate note-taker and statistician.

Palone won 604 races from 2,167 drives, followed by Brian Sears with 443 wins and Mike Wilder at 268.

Four other drivers topped 100 wins: Dick Stillings (190), Doug Snyder (176), Brian Zendt (163) and Don Rothfuss (144).

Palone's wins, coupled with 369 seconds and 265 thirds, gave him a UDRS, or on-the-board percentage, of .414. Sears came in at .376.

Palone earned purses totaling $2,644,891; Sears was second at $2,319,484. Drivers generally take home 5 percent of the purse total.

Other million-dollar purse winners: Mike Wilder $1,498,477, Stillings $1,038,369, Zendt $1,020,935, and Snyder, $1,006,626.

Mickey Burke was the winningest trainer with 131 victories; Randy Bendis had 127, Mike Palone 114 and Joe Mowod 106.

Mike Palone was the top percentage trainer. He had 114 victories, 70 seconds and 48 thirds in 399 starts for a UDRS of .423. His winning percentage was 28.6, tops among all Meadows trainers.

Burke led in purses-won for trainers at $746,800; Bendis was second at $633,426 and Palone was third at $431,823.

Huston keeps statistics for virtually everything that can happen at a racetrack. Here are some of his others:

dot.gif Horses set 1,033 lifetime marks in 2,778 races.

dot.gif Sixty-three percent, or 1,760 of the races, were for pacers; the other 1,019 were trots.

dot.gif Virgil Morgan was the best trainer at winning with a horse first time back off a claim. He had 15 claims that came back to make their next start at The Meadows, and seven of them -- 46.7 percent -- won. Mike Palone won with 21 of 48 (43.8 percent), and Marcus Marashian was third best with 21 of 62 (33.9 percent).

dot.gif Dave Palone was best racing in the lightning lane with 79 victories; Sears won 56 times and Wilder 26.

dot.gif 334 horses won via the lightning lane.

dot.gif The average time of all races was 1 minute, 57.4/5 seconds.

dot.gif There were 2,410 races won in two minutes or less.

dot.gif There were five national season champions at The Meadows, which means the horses had the season's best time for their gait and division on a 5/8-mile track. Always Cam was fastest 3-year-old filly pacer at 1:52; Western Millennium was fastest older stallion pacer at 1:50 1/5; Fastest 2-year-old gelding pacer was Bloodstock's Sam at 1:58; top 4-year-old mare pacer was AJ's Babydoll at 1:55; and Tiff Tuff Tag had the best time for 4-year-old gelded trotters at 1:56

The season-best times by Always Cam, Bloodstock's Sam and AJ's Babydoll were all track records.

Three other horses also set track records: 4-year-old gelded pacer HR Sherrys Jin Jin, 1:52 1/5; 4-year-old trotting stallion Yankee Douglas, 1:54 1/5; and older mare trotter Fox Jazz, 1:56.

Huston also keeps track of how drivers do when they are named on multiple horses and have to pick their mounts. Looking only at drivers who had 20 or more choices, Huston found Snyder the savviest, picking the better-finishing horse 46 of 64 times (71.9). Sears was second-best, 470 times of 663 (70.9); Wilder ranked next with 195 of 279 (69.9); and Dave Palone was fourth at 580 times out of 872 (66.5 percent).

Palone gave up 79 winners, Sears 46 and Wilder 21.

Good numbers

Despite the general economic decline, wagering increased 3.19 percent, to $15.04 billion in 2002, according to a year-end economic report from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase Co. LLC.

Total purses increased 0.63 percent to $1.07 billion, while total racing days declined from 6,578 to 6,545. The NTRA said most of the decline was caused by weather cancellations.

Derby web

Churchill Downs has launched its 2003 Kentucky Derby Web site at http://www.kentuckyderby.com. The site includes five sections: Derby coverage, including daily updates on news, Derby history, Derby experience, which contains photos and live Webcams, Kentucky Oaks and Derby Store. The site also will have a site to sign up for several Kentucky Derby fantasy games.


Pohla Smith can be reached at psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228.

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