By John Manzi
MONTICELLO January 25, 2008 Billy “Zeke” Parker Jr. still knows his way around the racetrack.
On Tuesday afternoon, January 22, the 14-time Monticello Raceway driving champion broke out and reined four winners on the card. Now that’s not unusual for Zeke because winning races has been his specialty. In a career that began more than four decades ago, the Maine-native has visited the winner’s circle more than 9,000 times.
On Jan. 22, his first winner of the day came in the second race behind Mike D’Abbraccio’s trotter HF’s Gal in a time of 2 minutes, 3.2 seconds. Parker didn’t win another race until the seventh when he guided his and Charlie Lewis’ Preyingondaylite to a 2:02.1 victory, the first this season for the 8-year-old mare who won 13 times last year.
Parker followed that triumph with another behind Anthony Catalano’s Rootintootinfilly in 1:59.1 in the track’s daily pacing feature. Parker notched victory No. 4 on the day in the 11th race with Gary Wolf’s Love That Cut in a time of 2:00.
There was a time, and not too many years ago, when Billy Parker Jr. seemingly owned the racetrack here at Monticello Raceway. But that could be said about everyplace where Zeke raced.
In 1981, he won driving titles at Scarborough Downs and Lewiston Raceway in his home state of Maine and then he was the driving leader at Foxboro Raceway in Massachusetts in 1983.
The following year, Parker moved his base of operation to the Mighty M and he continued winning driving titles. His 14 driving championships here go along with two championship seasons at Yonkers Raceway during the early years of the 21st century.
In a career that began in the mid-1970s, Parker now is the proud recipient of 9,312 wins. That victory total ranks him ninth all-time in the sport a statistic alone which many feel makes him a good candidate for the Hall of Fame honors.
In recent seasons however, Zeke has slowed down by his standards. But most drivers would be extremely proud to win 180 races, or more, during a season. It’s not that he has lost anything, it’s just that he’s gotten a bit older and isn’t pushing as hard.
One of Parker’s greatest accomplishments and there have been many came right here on October 26, 1996 when he tied a then-world record by reining nine winners on a 10-race program.
In deference to Parker, since the video gaming machines were installed in July 2004 at the raceway and purses were greatly escalated, many top stables moved to the Mighty M and Parker didn’t get the amount of drives as he usually had in the past.
But that made no difference to him. Parker is happy with himself and his lifestyle.
The now longtime Monticello resident celebrated his 54th birthday last September 24 and he finds his life much different than it was decades ago.
About 10 years ago, Parker married a local lady, T.J. McCullough, and they settled outside the Village of Monticello, where they have a small farm complete with paddocks to turn out and freshen-up their stock. Parker even bulldozed a track there where he can exercise his horses.
Billy and T.J. are the proud parents of two boys, 7-year-old Brandon and 1-year-old Brody.
Now that he’s getting older, Parker is quick to admit that his life is certainly different than it used to be.
He says he’s settled down now and that his family is the most important thing in his life.