The US$1-million Hambletonian still beckons, but Canadian harness driver Trevor Henry still has a pretty neat career milestone to relish.
The 49-year-old resident of Arthur, Ont., reached the 7,000-win plateau Friday night and did so in dramatic fashion. He rallied pacing mare Gias Surreal, a 12/1 longshot, from last in a seven-horse field to register the milestone victory by three-quarters of a length in the 11th race at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
And while winning the Hambletonian - a major American harness race - remains the one race Henry would dearly love to capture, registering 7,000 career victories is definitely a worthy achievement for a driver who since 1989 has travelled across Ontario, the U.S., and the world to race horses.
"It's certainly a nice accomplishment . . . but it's a lot of work," Henry said during a telephone interview. "You put in a lot of hours, a lot of miles on the road.
"It was nice, for sure, to get it with a longshot because when you start driving, all you drive are longshots."
Henry entered Friday night's action needing three victories to reach 7,000. He pulled to within one of the milestone with by winning the seventh race with favoured trotting mare Shes Got Pizazz and eighth with Furiosa, a 47/1 longshot pacing mare.
Henry said coming from behind with Gias Surreal was the gameplan he and trainer Don Lindsey came up with.
"I drove her the week before and Don said she's always better chasing horses down than she is on the front end or close to the front," Henry said. "She had the outside hole anyways so I thought we might as well try right from the back and it worked out."
But Henry didn't head into Friday's card expecting to reach 7,000 wins.
"You just take it as it comes," he said. "You can't predict anything in this business."
Chances are, though, Henry would've hit the milestone much sooner had he not been hit by a car in April 2019. Henry was struck while crossing a street in Montreal, suffering a broken ankle that required surgery.
Henry was sitting at 6,668 career victories at the time.
"It set me back a few months but there's always things like that which happen," he said. "You just keep going, it comes when it comes.
"There's a lot worse things that can happen than that."
Reaching such a plateau is especially gratifying for someone who spent much of his youth wanting to race horses.
"Pretty much," he said. "One time I thought about being a veterinarian but I didn't think I was smart enough to get the grades so I went to this.
"I've been at it quite a while, actually. I just keep working away at it."
Henry has been a leading driver at numerous tracks throughout Ontario and currently ranks fifth at Mohawk Park with 149 wins. He registered a career-high 533 victories in 2012, then five years later achieved his highest money-earning campaign (over $5.9 million).
Henry also represented Canada at the 2013 world driving championship in France, which also landed him an opportunity to compete Down Under.
"I met a guy there from Australia and we became close friends," Henry said. "So I went there and drove for him and won a couple of races one day, which was exciting because it was different racing there.
"I've been to tracks in the U.S. and there aren't any in Ontario I haven't seen."
Over his career, Henry's horses have won over $65.6 million. But Henry does more than drive horses, he also trains them with a stable of seven at his farm.
"I like to have a few around to train in the morning because I get bored if I don't," Henry said. "I've got to have something to do."
However, 2020 has certainly been a different season for Henry and other drivers. They've had to race without fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It kind of sucks with no fans in the grandstand," Henry said. "But there's a lot of people worse off than we are."
And even after 30-plus years, Henry still loves what he's doing.
"As long as they keep putting me down I'm going to keep showing up," he said. "No, I'm too young to retire."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press