Matt Kakaley is gearing up for a big weekend on the racetrack and is in pursuit of another big milestone. On Saturday night (Jan. 28), Kakaley will drive horses in Meadowlands Racetrack's three winter series finals -- Presidential, Complex and Clyde Hirt -- as he continues his quest for career win No. 2,000. The 23-year-old Kakaley will be the youngest driver in harness racing history to reach 2,000 lifetime victories.
Entering Friday, Kakaley's win total was 1,987. Tim Tetrick holds the record for youngest driver to reach 2,000, having accomplished the feat at the age of 24 in 2006.
"Timmy is probably the best driver in the game right now, and to break one of his records, it means something," Kakaley said. "I'm really proud of it.
"I never dreamed I would be racing where I am right now, driving for the trainers I race for, and the owners I race for. It's kind of surreal. To have success like this, it's just great. I'm driving on the East Coast against the best drivers in the country, which is special. It's amazing."
Kakaley was the youngest driver to reach 1,000 wins, which he accomplished at the age of 21 in June 2009, but the mark was broken by Doug McNair, who was 20 when he reached that level in December 2010. Kakaley was given the 2010 Rising Star Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
Last year, Kakaley won 444 races and earned a career-best $6.07 million in purses. He was the leading driver at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
"It was a great year," Kakaley said. "I didn't have any really big stakes horses that I was driving, but the time will come for that. I'm just taking things as they come. I got a lot of support from (trainer) Ronnie Burke at Pocono and it was a great year at Pocono. I hope I can duplicate it when I go back."
Kakaley, who lives in northeastern Pennsylvania, is keeping busy while Pocono Downs is closed for its offseason (reopening in April), racing at Dover Downs in Delaware and the Meadowlands in northern New Jersey.
"It's a lot of driving, but it's all worth it," Kakaley said. "I might get tired and complain about it once in a while, but it's an honor to get to do this for a living."
On Saturday, Kakaley will drive Rockin The House in the $110,500 Presidential Series final, Risk Management in the $74,000 Complex and Upfront Ellijay Ed in the $73,000 Clyde Hirt.
Rockin The House, trained by Burke, drew post 10 and is 20-1 on the morning line. Golden Receiver, who is 3-for-3 this year and starts from post two for driver Brian Sears and trainer Mark Harder, is the 9-5 favorite.
"We're kind of up against it with the 10 hole, but you never know," Kakaley said. "They're going to mix it up; there's a lot of speed in there. Hopefully we can get a piece of it. I drove that horse all summer at Pocono and I really like him. We're just going to try to make the best of it."
Risk Management, who is part of a 6-5 entry for Burke in the Complex, was second to stablemate Itrustyou in the first round of the series and finished fifth in the second leg.
"Last week I was a little disappointed with him, but I was parked to the quarter to get to the lead," Kakaley said. "He raced well in leg one. He snuck through on the inside and was splitting horses late and just got beat. I'm sure Ronnie Burke will have him ready for me Saturday."
Upfront Ellijay Ed, trained by Mark Ford, was second in the first round of the Clyde Hirt and finished eighth in the second leg, although he was beaten by only five lengths and raced with a flat tire for the last half of the mile. Special T Rocks, trained and driven by Daryl Bier, is 3-for-3 this year and is the 8-5 morning line favorite.
"That horse raced really good in the first leg," Kakaley said. "He raced really good last week, too, but I had the six hole and got away bad (in ninth place). As long as he can get in the flow, I think he's got a good shot to be close and get a good piece of it. He's not a bad little horse. He's got a good kick when he comes off cover. Hopefully I can trip him up where he's pacing hard at the wire."
by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications
Courtesy of The US Trotting Association Web Newsroom