By John Manzi
SULLIVAN COUNTY November 15, 2002 Billy Zeke Parker, Jr. joined an elite club when he notched his 8,000th career victory Tuesday afternoon, November 12 at Monticello Raceway.
Parkers milestone came behind Pass On The Right in the third race on the card. Owned by Tom Valine of New Holland, Pa. and conditioned by the meets leading trainer, Art Green, Pass On The Right used the front-end route for a 2:00:1 victory in a pouring rainstorm.
With his victory, Parker joins only nine other harness racers who have won 8,000 or more races in their careers.
Parkers illustrious career began in 1969 when at just 16 years of age he drove his first horse at Presque Isle, Maine.
I didnt do too good that day, (and) finished back, he said. But I had confidence that things would get better when I got more experience.
At that time, Zekes uncle, Freeman Parker, was a force to be reckoned with on the Maine circuit.
I think Uncle Freeman had 2,500 winners by then, Zeke recalled. I idolized him and wanted to win races like he did.
The following year Zeke won his first race. It came behind Hedge Jappa Jeff in 2:13:3 at the Union (Maine) Fair.
As is the case with all who sit behind a harness horse, no matter how many races they eventually win, their first victory is always remembered.
After his first victory, Parker pondered his future.
I set a goal for myself to win a thousand races, he said. Honestly, I thought if I could win a thousand races it would be great. You know, back in those days racing wasnt year-round. You only had seven or eight months to race.
Once he became established, victories came as easy for Zeke as they did for his uncle.
Parkers first 100-win season came in 1977, when he visited the winners circle a total of 104 times.
His first national ranking came in 1980, when his 266 driving victories was 10th best in North America. The following year he was fourth in wins in North America with 337.
For the next 14 years, Parker ranked in the top 20 in victories and along the way won driving titles at nearly every track he competed at on a regular basis.
Catskill Amateurs Host
Capitol Region Counterparts
Two divisions of amateur competitions will be presented on the betting card this Sunday afternoon (November 17).
Four members of the Catskill Amateur Drivers Association will host their counterparts from the Capitol Area Amateur Drivers Association in two events carded as races three and five on the 12-race program.
Driving for the visiting Capitol Area Amateurs are three doctors and one lawyer. The doctors include Scott Leaf, the organizations president, Robert L. Davison and Scott Woogen. Ken Weckstein is the attorney.
Representing the hometown Catskill Amateurs are club president and ski-shop owner Gerry Fielding, businessman Ken Heins, horse trainer, Gary Barbere and Dr. Howard Slotoroff.
In an attempt to make the competition as competitive as possible the Capitol Area amateurs drew for the even number post positions in the third race, while the Catskill Amateurs drew the even number posts in the fifth race.
The European point system will be used to determine the winning team and the individual champion. Trophies will be presented after the races have been completed as all eight amateur reinsmen break bread at dinner.