Odds On Racing's
Driver of the Month for
When you're the little brother of the family, it's not always easy keeping up with your siblings. But that's certainly not the case with the Illinois-based brothers of Dean and Dave Magee.
The 48-year-old Dean, ten years younger than Dave, has certainly been able to kee up with the big boys, including his older sibling. While Dave has racked up Hall of Fame numbers--Dean has put together a pretty decent ledger sheet of 3,402 wins and more than $21.5 million in purses since starting his career in the early 1980s.
Dean driving a winner at Balmoral in 2012
"People expect me to be like Dave in that I should drive horses the way he does," Dean said. "I don't feel like I'm a natural the way Dave is. He has an extra feel for the horse that I think is second to none. It's never a thing where we sat down and talked about driving, but of course, since we're brothers, he'd give me little tips from time to time and insights into the various particulars of certain horses.
"Dave has influenced me in terms of not taking the races home with you," Dean continued. "He stressed that to me a long time ago and he was absolutely right. If you take the races home, you tend to dwell on negativism. I think if you feel like you're in a slump, you will be. For me, I basically take one race at a time. I think if you have confidence in yourself, then the horse will feel it."
Dean, along with brothers Dave, Keith and Kevin, grew up on a 140-acre farm in Green Bay, Wisconsin owned by their parents, Curt nad Orreine. While Dean was a toddler, his father worked for Ralston-Purina. Curt later opened up his own feed mill, a business now run by Kevin.
Through the years Magee's dad and his uncle Elwood had raced Standardbreds on the Wisconsin county fair circuit, exposing the younger set to the sport. While Dean remained in school, Dave embarked on a driving career of his own. A trip to Quad City Downs in Moline, Illinois one summer to visit his older brother was the final impetus Dean needed to determine his future.
"I was 12 when I went to see Dave at Quad City that first time and I worked for him cleaning stals and jogging horses," Dean recalled. "In my mind, I just couldn't wait to get through school so I could work with the horses. Driving always appealed to me the most, even from the first time I had ever jogged a horse. I was hooked right from the start."
Dean Magee in action at Maywood Park
While in high school Dean received a fair license and then while competing at a fair in Norway, Michigan, he stepped up to "provisional" status. Upon graduation, he went to work for his uncle on a full-time basis, but soon left to drive at the pari-mutuel tracks for some owner-friends.
Dean spent his early career bouncing between Balmoral and Quad City Downs, with short stops at Canterbury Downs and Fairmount Park. He quickly established himself as one of the state's top catch-drivers, with three straight Quad City titles as a testament to his talent. It was then that Dean decided to leave the west end of the Prairie State and head full-time for the Windy City.
"Chicago offered a bigger market and more money," Dean said. "I felt confident after racing all those years at The Downs that I was ready for the big leagues in Chicago. I had wanted to get that kind of experience before I attempted to drive with the top drivers at Sportsman's Park and the other Chicago-area tracks."
Racing in Chicago has since evolved into a year-round endeavor at Maywood and Balmoral Parks. Dean says he makes a conscious effort to adjust his driving styles between Maywood's half-mile oval and Balmoral's once-arounder, but adds that the style of the horse influences his choice in a race morem than the racetrack itself.
"Theoretically you should be a little more aggressive at Maywood because it seems like if you're up close there you're apt to do a little better. But then, a horse who races well at Balmoral may not handle the turns at Maywood, so you'd have to make an adjustment for the horse."
I basically take one race at a time.
I think if you have confidence in yourself,
then the horse will feel it."
Dean studies the program every night prior to his races and says he tries to predict how each race might materialize.
"I try to visualize how the start will unfold," Dean said. "For instance, which horse will be leaving and who might get to the front. I try to get a picture of how well the front-end horses will hang on. I try to position a horse throughout the race to suit that horse's particular style of racing."
Over the years Dean has piloted many top horses, but his favorite is the pacer Happy Mindale, who competed in Chicago in the early 1990s.
"He was a fast horse who was never sound, but he tried so hard every race," Dean said. "I really admired him for his guts. He was racky-gaited and looked really gimpy on the track, but in a race he just forgot about his problems. I also had the pleasure of driving Tavern Talk, who was a very powerful horse that you could do anything with. He was a big baby to drive."
"I really don't see myself doing anything else," Dean said. "If I was to retire from driving I think I'd get a farm with some broodmares and maybe train a few colts for myself. I would like to see my kids (daughter Alexis, 52 and son Taylor, 13) learn the business. I was always told when I was growing up that there isn't a great future with the horses, but it's always been something that I've wanted to do. I can thank my parents for allowing me to make my own decisiobns about it. Both of my kids are crazy about horses right now, and I'd really like them to get involved in some aspect of the business."
Dean Magee Career Driving Statistics (through May 1, 2012)
Year Starts Wins 2nds 3rds Earnings
2012 472 46 45 50 $274,642
2011 1235 190 157 143 $770,983
2010 1079 134 139 123 $554,093
2009 1254 97 123 140 $569,378
2008 1507 139 158 188 $832,769
2007 1392 126 150 151 $802,595
2006 1299 87 111 139 $728,029
2005 1103 71 85 119 $654,800
2004 958 62 77 100 $577,482
2003 727 71 69 90 $1,404,954
2002 1029 128 104 125 $1,464,336
2001 1325 149 163 158 $1,814,082
2000 1396 130 154 171 $1,445,155
1999 1506 146 150 197 $1,322,196
1998 1906 214 217 224 $1,502,944
1997 1677 170 205 211 $1,138,626
1996 2064 271 233 226 $1,611,922
1995 2174 297 274 269 $1,455,395
1994 1818 215 255 224 $1,250,090
1993 1220 145 111 149 $805,704
1992 1851 174 215 209 $1,417,058
1991 1489 182 204 183 $1,007,947
1990 1596 321 257 235 $713,832
1989 1444 270 230 181 $584,132
1988 672 85 79 82 $369,727
1987 758 96 111 104 $235,871
1986 366 32 40 35 $122,176
1985 583 74 78 67 $162,912
1984 284 33 42 24 $66,604
1983 16 3 4 1 $3,985
1982 31 7 4 11 $2,109
1981 41 8 15 4 $2,460
Total 4,173 $25,668,988