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Casey On a Roll (03/03/13)
Posted Sunday March 3, 2013
By Mike Paradise
Heading into March the hottest driver on the local circuit has been Casey Leonard. Both he and Mike Oosting finished the first two months with 62 winners each but Casey had 34 less drives.
While Leonard has driven over 230 winning horses the past two years the 35-year-old Harvard, Illinois native is on a pace to dwarf those numbers.
In 2012 after the first two months of racing, Casey had 17 dash winners. This year (with four less nights of racing because of a winter break) he was at 62. He’s already had not one but two career best six winners on single cards at Maywood.
“I know I’m not going to keep this pace up all year but I’m going to enjoy it while it’s still going on, that’s for sure,” said Casey with a smile.
What’s the reason for his smoking hot start in 2013?
“The key of course is driving horses that are in the right classes but mostly it’s because I’m driving for some very good trainers,” Casey replied.
“A lot of the top trainers have left Illinois to race their horses out east for a lot more money. However, I’m fortunate to drive horses for Dave Mc Caffrey and Merv Chupp, two of the best trainers who are still in Illinois.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to drive for trainers like Dave and Merv. Both come up with fresh horses, new horses that they put in where they need to go to do well and they often do.
“Plus I’m driving the Grevengoed’s and our horses and a lot of them are horses with some back class.”
Casey didn’t become a full-time catch-driver on the circuit until he was 32 years old and while showed a lot of maturity from the get-got he still had learning to do.
“Last week when I won at Maywood with Majestic Royale from the 8-hole coming from behind, that wouldn’t have happen two years ago,” admitted Casey.
‘I would have hustled a horse like him out of there and if I didn’t make the front and got hung out, I would have finished up the track. Now I’m a more patient. I’ll take a horse like him to the gate and look over and if there isn’t a seam, I’ll grab hold and take what I can get.
“Last year I had over 2,000 drives and if you go to the gate that many times you’re going to win your share of races,” he said modestly. “Right now anything I do is just working out for me. I know I’ll cool off but for I’m enjoying it while I can.
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