Monticello, NY — On Thursday (Nov. 17), Monticello Raceway witnessed the all-too-familiar white, green and red colors of Billy “Zeke” Parker crossing the finish line and entering the winner’s circle for the last time. After a much-storied career that spanned decades, he hung up his colors after his 11,315th win aboard Sweet Ginger, a seven-length winner in 1:59.4.
The 69-year-old Parker, a native of Sanford, Maine, not far from Scarborough Downs, hails from a family rich in Maine harness racing tradition. His father, Freeman, was a legend in the Pine Tree State. Parker’s raw talent brought him out of obscurity and into the national spotlight. Along the way, he competed at many tracks and dominated. Fellow horseman Nick Clegg put it well, “You would definitely have had to drive against him to totally understand his greatness. First off, he was an absolute competitor who absolutely hated to lose and would use his endless bag of tricks and do whatever it took to beat you on the track.”
Throughout his lengthy career, Parker amassed statistics of 59,033 starts. That equates to sitting in the sulky and traveling around the world twice! Parker’s win total lands him in 12th place for all-time leading dash winning drivers. He finished second 9,396 times, with 7,948 third place finishes and he won purses totaling $31,270,213.
His first drive was in Presque Isle, Maine, with his first win coming at the Union Fair. Throughout his career, he amassed numerous dash-winning titles at multiple tracks and holds the record for the most wins on one card at Monticello Raceway, his hometown track. While not in the prime-time national spotlight, he competed mainly in the overnight circuit. The 1997-2002 seasons marked the height of Parker’s career. In that time, he drove for more than $2 million in purses twice and breached the $1 million mark four times.
In 1995, he set a personal best with 525 wins on the year with a UDR of .400.
On the other side of the slate, he also sports impressive numbers as a trainer, with lifetime stats of 1,461 training wins and $4,191,512 in purses.
A large group of family, friends and horsemen joined Parker in the winner’s circle to help celebrate his career milestone. He said, “Today’s win felt better than my first win. I came in this as a loser. I could have gone out a loser, but I went out as a winner. I started getting a little teary eyed because I knew that this was it — win, lose, or draw.”
Although Parker has retired from driving, he will remain active, running a small stable with his son, Brandon, at Monticello Raceway and operating his farm.