Gerald Bennett, who 33 years ago won with the first horse he ever saddled at old Greenwood Race Track in Toronto, registered the 3,000th victory of his career Aug. 28 when Shegoestoeleven won in a photo finish in the eighth race at Presque Isle Downs.
Shegoestoeleven shipped to the Erie, Pa., track from Thistledown, where Bennett holds a commanding lead in the Randall-Cranwood meeting trainers' derby.
Bennett, 65, a native of Springhill, Nova Scotia, Canada, is just the 23rd trainer in the history of North American racing to win 3,000 races. The late Dale Baird, king of Mountaineer Park, is the all-time leader with 9,445 winners.
Among active North American trainers, Bennett ranks 14th.
"I've had a lot of nice horses over the years," Bennett said. "I believe in that saying that says the harder you work, the luckier you get."
Bennett recalls his first winner being a maiden that scored in its special weight debut.
"The horse's name was Victorian Sun. I paid $2,500 for him and he beat the favorite that day, a horse owned by Conn Smythe (founder of the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs as well as the Jockey Club of Canada). I remember Smythe turning to his trainer and saying about his horse, 'If he can't beat that bunch, sell him.'"
Bennett's most successful horse was Beau Genius, a winner of 19 of 42 starts and $1,055,600.
"We ran him in the (1990) Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) and that didn't work out too well (10th place finish)," said Bennett. "But had we run him in the Sprint (gr. I), I think he would have won. He was that fast a horse."
Should Bennett continue to dominant the 76-day Randall-Cranwood session, the title will be his second at Thistledown. The first came 22 years in the 1987 season-opening summit meeting.
Bennett, currently racing on four fronts--at Pinnacle Race Course and Mountaineer Racetrack, as well as Thistledown and Presque Isle--for years dominated racing in Michigan. He was the leading trainer at old Detroit Race Course 18 times.
"I like horses,” said Bennett. “You have to have a rapport, a chemistry, almost a sixth sense with them.”