Washington, Pa. — Dave Palone is now the winningest harness racing driver in the world.
Palone accomplished his 16,754th career victory Friday driving Missy Tap Tina in the final race of the day at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in suburban Pittsburgh.
He passed the mark of 16,753 held by Germany's Heinz Wewering, who offered congratulations by video but has a chance to regain the title Sunday in Berlin. Palone is idle until Monday.
An emotional Palone said in the winners' circle presentation that he felt his father — Marion "Butch" Palone, who died Nov. 4 — "was with me around the final turn," The (Washington) Observer-Reporter reported.
Palone expressed relief at having achieved the record and said he might not "push myself so hard" now.
"It's been a long grind, 30 years' worth of racing," he said a few days earlier. "I can't say it hasn't been on my mind. It doesn't get any easier as you get older, competing against these younger guys."
Palone, 52, was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2010. He became the all-time leading driver in North America in 2012, passing Herve Filion's mark of 15,180 wins — and then, he acknowledged, focused on the world record.
"I've had this in my sights since we broke Herve's record," he said, thanking his family as well as the trainers for providing him with opportunities to drive top horses. He also said Hall of Famer John Campbell "has always been a hero to me and the epitome of excellence."
"A few times when I went down with injuries, he was the first guy to call me and wish me well and talk me through those injuries," he said.
But he expressed regret that the most important influence on his career, his father, wasn't there to share the moment.
"I would have loved breaking the record while he was here," he said. "My dad was everything. I never would have been involved with horses if it weren't for my dad dragging me here when I was 10 or 11 years old. He and a friend got me my first horses. … I owe everything to my dad."