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Harness Line and Comments
By Mike Paradise
Krueger Reflects on Rookie Season
The news of a contract agreement to begin the racing season next Friday brought a grin on the face of second year driver Matt Krueger, the one-time auto-worker from Manteno, IL who joined the local driver ranks last year at the age of 38.
“Going into my first year I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations,” said Matt who worked for 12 years at a Ford factory in Kansas City before getting laid off and returning to his home state to fulfill his boyhood dreams.
“I hoped to get a few chances and try to prove myself. I was able to get behind some decent horses and showcase that I did have a little talent. It opened a lot of doors and my first season exceeded all expectations.
“Last year was a blast and I learned so much and met so many great people.
“When you’re breaking in the drives you do get aren’t very lively. But I was able to get some of them into the winner’s circle and that opened some people’s eyes that if I could win with some bad horses I deserved an opportunity to drive some good ones.
“Winning with Sports Fanatic in my first Super Night was very exciting.”
Kruger, who turned 39 this past January, had 59 winning drives in his first season and had a 10% winning clip at Balmoral where he also worked as the second trainer for the Homer Hochstetler Stable.
On Thursday morning Kruger steered his cousin’s Lyle Scurlock’s solid pacer LB’s Alamericanjoy to a 1:56.2 clocking in a qualifier. The 4-year-old gelding made up almost 10 lengths in the last quarter when he motored past most of his field on a track that wasn’t lighting fast.
“They told me before the qualifier that they wanted me to race him easy but race him home and I did. I more and less just took a ride with him and he still came home in :27.1
I was able to slide him out around the three-quarters and he finished strong all on his own.
“The track was pretty good along the rail but once you got outside it was sloppy since the track was thawing out. If you had to tip three-wide in the stretch you were racing pretty deep.
Three races later Matt guided the Merv Chupp Stable’s Bettors Curse to a 1:58.3 win in his qualifier in front-end fashion.
“Bettors Curse is nice horse,” continued Matt. “That was the first time I drove him. He’s an open horse who raced in non-winners of $15,000 in his last start and in an Invitational the time before. He’s got class.
“I just rolled him out of the gate and let him pace the way he wanted. I had a pretty good hold on him. He could have gone more. The track played a part in his time (1:58.1).
“Getting out on the track Thursday on a nice morning was great. I can’t wait for the season to begin next week.”
So can’t we.
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