Day At The Track

Kyle Wilfong - America's new breed of driver

01:50 PM 18 Nov 2011 NZDT
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Kyle Wilfong Kyle Wilfong Kyle Wilfong (in the white) Kyle Wilfong Kyle Wilfong and Brittany Wilfong Kyle Wilfong Kyle Wilfong Kyle Wilfong's helmet Kyle Wilfong - thumbs up
Kyle Wilfong - Is one of Balmoral Park's 'Fantastic Seven'
Kyle Wilfong - Outside harness raced enjoyed playing basketball and poker
Kyle Wilfong (in the white) - Playing for the Donovan basketball team
Kyle Wilfong - Tends to a one-eyed standardbred
Kyle Wilfong and Brittany Wilfong
Kyle Wilfong - Has had 1,045 drives and saluted the judge 107 times in 2011
Kyle Wilfong - The only reinsman from his State to win a US amateur title
Kyle Wilfong's helmet
Kyle Wilfong - thumbs up
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Kyle Wilfong is of America's new breed of harness racing drivers - and the 20-year-old Watseka (Illinois) native aint half bad either! In fact Wilfong has stormed from nowhere to be one of the top reinsmen at Balmoral Park.

As at today (November 16) he was sixth on that track's driving premiership with 85 dash wins, 174 placings and $478,170 in purses. He also boasts a 0.244 UDR strike rate.

Wilfong's sudden success would however come as no surprise to those who have known about his abilities in the sulky.

In 2009 he won the Tim Fouts Memorial Amateur Driving Championship staged at the Delaware County Fair. That was also the year he had seven drives for five wins and two placings.

Then in 2010 he embarked on his open driving career on tracks in Illinois.

By the end of the season he had won 26 of his 46 starts and placed 32 times for $107,803.

But this year has really been one out of the bag for the former Donovan Senior High School student.

He has had 1,045 drives and saluted the judge 107 times. He's also placed 242 times for $640,643.

All up his career stats now stand at 1,208 starts, 141 wins, 281 placings and $754,158.

"It's been a phenomenal year alright, but I have always believed in myself and I did set myself a target of 100 wins at the start of the season. I put my success down to hard work and listening to horsemen who have had thousands of winners.

You can't beat good advice and young horsemen like me should never stop listening.

"I like to learn something every day and in Illinois there are many horsemen who have valuable knowledge and advice to share with me. To all them I am extremely grateful," Wilfong told Harnesslink.

He said Marcus Miller and Mike Oosting had been especially helpful. He regarded those two horsemen as men he hugely respected.

"They are top drivers and top men both on and off the racetrack. Marcus has this year's Balmoral Driving Championship wrapped up and one day I would like to emulate that feat.

For now I just want to keep driving more winners and making a name for myself.

"Next year I'd like to finish in the top five and perhaps drive 150-plus winners. Whatever my total is I want it to be considerably more than what I win this year," Beecher based Wilfong said.

Wilfong is a fourth generation horseman. His great grandfather Ralph was a trainer, while his father Brett and grandfather Lynn also trained in the family's home State.

Wilfong worked horses throughout his school days and then teamed up with his father when he left school.

He shone as an amateur driver becoming the only reinsman from his State to win a US amateur title.

He said he loved driving in Illinois but was disappointed there were no slots at racetracks in his State.

"That is my only gripe with racing here. If we had slots the industry would thrive even more. Hopefully they will be introduced one day. It's a common sense thing. If not, horsemen could have to move to greener pastures to make a decent living," he said.

He said driving top 3-year-old stakes trotter Anthonyskywalker to three straight victories at Balmoral Park in June and July as one of the highlights of his 2011 season.

"He was the top 2-year-old trotter in Illinois last year and to win first-up on him was a real thrill. Winning four races behind another good 3-year-old - Just By Design was also very memorable," he said.

Wilfong works a couple of horses and come the winter he hopes to increase his team to half a dozen.

"I've got no world-beaters but who knows what will happen one day. I enjoy working a few of my own. It keeps me busy - and in touch," he said.

Outside of harness racing Wilfong said he enjoyed playing basketball and poker.

By Duane RANGER (editor)

                              

                           

                        

                      

                      

                            

                         

                                  

                           

                               

                           

                              

                        

                       

                            

                                 

                                    

                             

                            

                        

                           

            

                                                                               

(3) Kyle Wilfong supports the Indiana University basketball team:

(4) Kyle Wilfong is a big fan of poker - but like us all he hates cheats. Watch this crook try and win:

(5) The most ridiculous poker hand ever:

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