WASHINGTON, Pa. — It was in 1999 that Dave Palone brought Washington VC from well back to pass a tiring Blissfull Hall and win the final of the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids. Twenty years later, Palone still is seeking his second blanket of orchids in the signature event of his home track.

He’ll have perhaps his best chance in years in Saturday’s $400,000 Adios final at The Meadows when he steers Prince Of Tides, one of three Adios elimination winners, from the rail.

The Adios anchors an action-packed card that includes six Grand Circuit stakes and the $50,000 Foiled Again Invitational Pace. Foiled Again, who retired as the richest Standardbred ever with more than $7.6 million in earnings, will lead the post parades for the Adios and the Invitational. In addition, the card features three total-pool guarantees worth a combined $37,500.

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The Adios goes as race 15 with an approximate post time of 4:30 PM. The 16-race card kicks off at 11:25 a.m.

It isn’t that Palone hasn’t done well in the Adios; by many measures, he’s been terrific. Counting finals, elims and consolations, he’s won eight times and collected nearly $1.2 million in purses, behind only John Campbell and Ron Pierce in Adios earnings.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to take a lot of money out of the Adios,” Palone says. “I think I have a good history in the race, and I’m always super-comfortable on Adios Day.”

Yet it’s nearly inconceivable that Palone, the “winningest” driver on the planet with 18,880 career victories, should have only one Adios title. There is, however, a solid reason for it. The trainers of top 3-year-old colts often prefer to get season-long commitments from drivers to travel the Grand Circuit with their horses. That usually excludes Palone, who a number of years ago decided to limit his travel to spend more time with his family.

“That was the greatest decision in the world,” he says. “I was so fortunate to be able to spend my whole career right here, get home at five o’clock every day and watch my girls’ softball games or go to their horse shows. I may have missed opportunities out of town, but I don’t second-guess anything that I’ve done.”

Thus, while he’s picked up plenty of Adios catch drives, they’ve usually been long shots. Things may be different this year. Not only does he have a hot horse — Prince Of Tides has won five straight and dominated his Adios elim — but the rules of the stake also favor Palone again.

In 1999, finalists were chosen by open draw; when Blissful Hall drew post 8, he had to endure a demanding journey to the top over a track left sticky by rain. That enabled Palone to duck from post 3, rally late and defeat Blissfull Hall, who would go on to win pacing’s Triple Crown.

 “I figured I could take advantage of the one thing I knew — the racetrack,” Palone recalls. “It was tiring, so I took my horse back and ‘one-run’ him. That’s how we got it done.”

This year, elimination winners earned the right to pick their posts in the final. Even though Ross Croghan, who conditions Prince Of Tides for Let It Ride Stables, Dana Parham and Howard Taylor, chose third among elimination winners, he indicates his first preference always was the rail.

“He has a big gait and can change gears real quick,” Croghan says. “If anything leaves against him, they’re in big trouble. He has the post advantage, and they’ll have to beat him.”

A son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the champion mare Tug River Princess, Prince Of Tides was a growthy youngster who suffered colt soreness and was turned out after only four starts last year. Not knowing how good he might be, his connections sustained him to very few stakes; the Adios will be his richest engagement of the year.

“He’s a big, heavy horse, and we decided to shut him down early and let him finish growing,” Croghan says. “He has a tough job on Saturday, but he will race good.”

Palone hopes Prince Of Tides will bring him that elusive second Adios title, but he’s not obsessed with the quest.

“With my family here, it would be special to me,” he says. “But is it something I’m choked up about? Not at all. I love the situation I’m in.”

The Meadows and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA) have planned a number of appealing Adios Day fan activities. North of Mason-Dixon (NOMaD) will perform on the apron from 6 to 8 p.m. while the Miller Lite Brewhouse and the BBQ Tent will be open throughout the races. The MSOA will sponsor a T-shirt toss, and an Apple IPad will be raffled courtesy the Standardbred Breeders Association of PA.

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