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Brennan reflects on 10,000 wins
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - by Frank Drucker, Publicity Director, Empire City at Yonkers Raceway

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Yonkers, NY --- About seven weeks ago, an evening or so after Brian Sears won the 10,000th race of his career, there was George Brennan, sitting next to him inside Yonkers Raceway’s drivers’ room.

“We’re the old guys in the room,” Sears said.

 
Mike Lizzi photo
George Brennan became the 16th North American driver to reach 10,000 victories.

Well, ‘Old Guy’ Brennan joined Sears in the five-figure club, mimicking Sears and winning his 10,000th career race this past Friday night (Oct. 19) at the pair’s home away from home, Yonkers Raceway.

When diminutive Down Under Our Zak Whitby A went the distance in that evening’s second race, chauffeur Brennan became the 16th North American driver to reach that number.

A rare race off the night before allowed the 51-year-old Brennan a chance to reflect on what was then a milestone-in-waiting.

“It’s a good number, nothing I was aiming for,” Brennan said, “but I understand it’s significant.

“I don’t know if my approach is any different than when I was 30 or 40. I still love what I do, show up every night, keep myself in good shape and know the horses.”

Of course, getting dibs for Ron Burke and Scott DiDomenico, among other leading trainers, doesn’t hurt.

“The horsepower is the key,” Brennan said, adding, “The game has changed. Speed stays longer, the horses -- pacers and trotters -- have a lot more go-go. You don’t always have to be forwardly-placed, but it usually doesn’t hurt.”

If there has been one concession Brennan had made, it’s to his schedule.

“I’m here (Yonkers) about 98 percent of the time,” he said. “There’s no more traveling and getting home at three in the morning. Sometimes, I go to Freehold, the Meadowlands or Philly, but always local.

“It keeps me fresh.”

The Brennan resume recital is too meandering for this missive -- the man’s no one-hit wonder -- so he was asked to choose a few that stood out.

In no particular order:

Glidemaster (2006 Yonkers Trot) – “It was unfortunate for John (Campbell). The colt won the Hambletonian and Kentucky Futurity, then John was injured and (trainer) Blair (Burgess) asked me to drive. The race was late that season (Nov. 25), and it was a very cold night here. He won first-up in (1):55 (actually 1:55.4) to win the Triple Crown, so to be a part of that was pretty special.”

(author’s aside…Brennan had driven Glidemaster in his previous start, finishing second in the Breeders Crown at Woodbine)

Artist’s View (2007 Breeders Crown 3-year-old colt/gelding pace, Meadowlands) – “Without a doubt, one of my favorite races. He was out every step from the 10-hole and won (at 42-1). His trainer, Buzzy Sholty, is one of my best friends, so that was great.”

Holborn Hanover (2006 US Pacing Championship, Meadowlands) – “I put a world record (1:46.4) on him that day. Old bike, record lasted for years. Loved him.”

(another author’s aside…Holborn Hanover’s effort remains the standard for older pacing geldings. He was five at the time)

And then there was THAT day, Aug. 6, 2011, at the Meadowlands. In a span of 35 minutes, Brennan polished off the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks (Bold And Fresh, 1:53.1) and $1.5 million Hambletonian (Broad Bahn, 1:53) at odds of 24-1 and 6-1, respectively.

“Who thinks that’s going to happen?,” he said. “It was a hell of a day.”

During the conversation, around a mundane 10-race overnight card, Brennan bemoaned one aspect of the game that he says has changed.

“I miss not having the classy 10- and 11-year-olds out there competing the way they used to,” he said. This night featured ‘just’ three 10-year-olds, although several of the races were age-restricted.

It didn’t take very long to connect the dots between that musing and one Foiled Again.

“What’s he’s done has been incredible,” Brennan -- who won thrice with him -- said of the sport’s richest-ever equine. “It was an honor to get to drive him.”

Alright, George Brennan, let’s put the finishing touches on ‘What 10,000 wins means to me.’

“I think what I’m really proud of is that when I came down here (New York metropolitan area) for good in 1994, I didn’t have 1,000 wins,” Brennan said. “So, to win 9,000 or so races driving against top-notch competition, that’s something to me.”

Brennan, a native of Monticello, N.Y., won his first race -- behind Rob Ron Romper -- at his hometown track as a high school junior back in 1982. His career purse earnings exceed $171 million, ranking seventh all-time, according to the United States Trotting Association.

Asked when he thought he ‘became good,’ Brennan offered that “I was going to drive horses for a living regardless, but when I had early success at Monticello (inserting credit to stepfather Joe Ricco Jr.), it helped.

“I’m 51, but I’m still learning, so if younger drivers are picking things up from me, I’m picking things up from them, too.”


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