Top harness racing driver Matt Kakaley bought into Fearless Diablo the first time he drove the horse; figuratively and literally. Kakaley owns a share of the 4-year-old pacer with Allen Kaplan and Claim to Fame stable. The group purchased the lightly-raced horse in December, just prior to Christmas. Last week, Fearless Diablo won his opening-round division of the Exit 16W Series by a neck over Bettor's Reward in 1:50.2 at Meadowlands Racetrack
"They wanted me to train him before qualifiers one day," Kakaley said. "I trained him and I went a pretty good mile with him. They asked me if I'd be interested in buying a piece of him. He impressed me when I trained him, so I bought into him. He just showed a lot of quick speed. I like the way he goes. I figured I'd take a shot at him."
Fearless Diablo has won two of three races this year. He was unraced as a 2-year-old and made only three starts, finishing second once, last season. Previously co-owned and trained by Steve Elliott, Fearless Diablo is a son ofout of the mare Terrific Spice. His dam is a half-sister to Carlspur (who made all but $42,634 of his lifetime $910,406 after the age of 3) and the family includes multiple-stakes-winner Kentucky Spur.
Kakaley won a qualifier with Fearless Diablo by nearly 16 lengths in 1:58 in late December at Dover Downs and followed up 11 days later by notching his first lifetime win by 16-1/2 lengths in 1:53.2 from post seven at Dover. He was beaten by a nose in 1:52.3 in his next start, but got back to the winner's circle with a three-wide move to capture the fastest of last week's four Exit 16W divisions.
"He just keeps getting better," said the 23-year-old Kakaley, who entered Wednesday needing two wins to become the youngest driver to reach 2,000. "The qualifier was a lot bigger mile than what it shows because the wind was blowing really hard that day. In his first start he went in (1):53 and he was completely wrapped up. The next start he was second when a horse popped up with a really big mile.
"Last week, I had to move him pretty early, like halfway around the last turn, and he just mowed them down. He just keeps getting better and stronger."
The Exit 16W Series resumes Friday night (Feb. 10), with Fearless Diablo in the third of three divisions. He will start from post seven for Kakaley and trainer Doug Lewis. He is 4-1 on the morning line; Ron Burke's Itrustyou, who is 4-for-4 this year and sports an 11-race win streak dating to October, is the 6-5 favorite.
"He's going to get a test from the Burke horse this week," Kakaley said. "We'll get to see what he's made of. I'd like to see what we've got. It's either this week or next week (in the final). We'll find out. I only wish we would have drawn a little better."
With such limited experience, Fearless Diablo is still learning how to race, but Kakaley is happy with his progress.
"He's a stud and he acts like it, but on the racetrack he's got really good manners," Kakaley said. "I've been trying to teach him and not get him too hot. He loves to pass horses, but he's just as good on the lead. The day I wired them out of the seven hole he was just awesome."
Following the Exit 16W Series, Fearless Diablo is eligible to the Sagamore Hill Pacing Series at Yonkers.
"If he keeps getting better, we'll just see what happens after that," Kakaley said. "After I qualified him I got a pretty good feel for him. After he won last week he really impressed us. I think we got something even better than we thought we were getting."
by Ken WEINGARTNER