WASHINGTON, Pa. — Harness racing driver, Dan Rawlings collected career win 1,000 on May 23, at The Meadows when he piloted Moshannon Magic to victory in the sixth race.
Rawlings, 36, a native of Lewiston, Maine, was a fan of harness racing long before he made it his occupation. He visited many racetracks with his father and a neighbor, Nick Dube. When Dube got into the business — he now works for The Meadows-based trainer/driver Wilbur Yoder — Rawlings thought he would, too, and traveled to North Carolina to groom. He soon signed on as second trainer for David Wade and realized that driving was his passion.
“My first drive was at the Greene County Fair in Waynesburg (Pa.),” he recalled. “I was racing my filly up front, and she jogged.”
Still, when he started driving full time at The Meadows in 2009, he had few connections to trainers and no regular assignments. For most cards, he sat patiently in the paddock lounge, hoping to pick up a late mount if a driver took off.
“I never said no,” he said. “There was no horse I wouldn't drive, no matter how bad it was. That got me a lot of drives. What else was I supposed to do? I didn't have family in the business. I didn't have trainers to put me down regularly.”
Rawlings credits Wade and trainer Rick Beinhauer, among others, with giving him drives and helping him through those lean years. Indeed, career win 999 came earlier on the card with Beinhauer’s 3-year-old filly Won The War.
“I’ve been very blessed to be with people who are not only great, but they’re also teaching you what you need to learn,” he said.
Although his horses have earned more than $11.3 million in purses, his greatest accomplishment at The Meadows may be surviving as a diehard New England Patriots fan in Pittsburgh Steelers country. When those two teams square off in their annual grudge match, Rawlings’ fellow horseman “bust my chops and I bust theirs.”
“I actually feel bad for people from Pittsburgh because they’ve been deprived of so much,” he says, tongue in cheek. “They could have been born in Boston.”
In addition to being an in-demand driver, Rawlings these days trains a one-horse stable that he might expand. But don’t expect training to become his principal pursuit anytime soon.
“I love working horses in the morning, but I just want to drive,” he said. “Ultimately, there’s nothing better than winning. I’m more than grateful that I’m in the position that I’m in. Not everybody gets paid to do what he likes.”
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