On the same day Chris McCarron, one of Thoroughbred racing's all-time leading riders, retired on a winning note, Herve Filion, the all-time leading Standardbred driver, returned to the track after a seven-year absence and won three races.
Filion, on the sidelines since 1995 after his involvement in a wire-tap investigation, returned June 23 at Harrington Raceway in Delaware. Now 62, Filion had won 14,783 harness races before his driving career was put on hold. Though he was cleared by courts in New York, he has failed to obtain a license from the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in the state where he won many of his races.
"I'm very happy to be back in the bike," said Filion, who drew a crowd of more than 3,000 to the southern Delaware racetrack and slot-machine complex. "I'm here to win races, and I thank the management of Harrington Raceway and the Delaware Racing Commission for letting me race here. I want to win my 15,000th in Delaware. That's what I am after."
Filion, known as a showman, wasted no time. After he and Alyshima crossed the wire first, he returned to the winner's circle at Harrington standing in the sulky and holding the lines in the air. He did the same more than 20 years ago when the colt Hot Hitter won a major stakes at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey.
Filion is a harness racing legend who perfected the art of driving doubleheaders on many race days. He would race at Freehold in the afternoon, and then fly by helicopter to New York, where he drove in the evening at Yonkers Raceway and defunct Roosevelt Raceway.
He also made his mark at two defunct Delaware Valley harness tracks, Brandywine Raceway and Liberty Bell Park. He drove his last race at Yonkers.
"Even though I haven't driven in a while, I've been working with horses right along," Filion told the press. "I'm in top physical condition and I'm ready to go."
Despite New York's move to deny Filion a license, Pennsylvania granted him a license earlier in June. On June 17, Delaware followed suit. The re-licensing has raised concerns in the pari-mutuel industry over the practice of reciprocity, whereby jurisdictions honor each others' decisions.
Laffit Pincay Jr. is Thoroughbred racing's all-time leading jockey with more than 9,370 wins.