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A Dream Career Comes To An End
Sunday, January 27, 2008 - by Scott Ehrlich, Publicity Director, Sacramento Harness Association

His dream was to achieve the same amount of wins as his idol Joe O'Brien and then call it a career, and Rick Kuebler fulfilled that dream with California Dream.
 
Open Handicap 1 pacers, racing for a purse of $8,000, were featured at Cal-Expo on Saturday night (January 26) , in which the classy Rick Kuebler went out as he was both on and off the track -- a winner.
 
In advance of starting from his assigned post-five in the field of the same number, Kuebler stated the obvious.
 
"I felt that California Dream, who has been dominant of late, would be my best chance of the night at tying the number of wins (4,284) that my idol Joe O'Brien had," said Kuebler.  "I did, however, feel pressure to win with him because I knew if I didn't win, that the pressure would mount as to which horse I would win with.  He had been racing very well on the front-end and that was going to be the strategy again."
 
Rolling out off the gate while joined by Frankthebank (Rich Wojcio), California Dream would clear to the front just before the field had traveled 3-16ths of a mile into a :28 first-quarter, all while Kuebler was happy.
 
"I was pleased with the first-quarter -- he was going easy and relaxed."
 
With the field not having yet straightened out for their journey up the backstretch, a surprise quarter-move out of fourth from Exit Hanover (Ed Hensley) changed what normally would have been a reserved pace in the small field.
 
"It was early and hard when Exit Hanover came and I weighed my options as to whether to let him go and follow, or to race him once he got next to me at the three-eighths.  Since my horse was well within himself and I didn't have to ask him while he was holding out Exit Hanover, I elected to start racing from there."
 
Reaching the half-mile station in a pressured :56.1, Kuebler was cautiously optimistic.
 
"The first-half was not beyond his capabilities to keep going in the race, but I did have a slight question in my mind whether racing so early was going to take its toll in the last eighth of a mile."
 
Continuing to get prompted by Exit Hanover until midway through the final-turn, Kuebler decided to step on the pedal a little harder.
 
"Exit Hanover was starting to fall back and Frankthebank at that point seemingly wasn't a threat, all while my horse was now opening up -- which made me feel very confident."
 
Pacing a :27.4 third-quarter while reaching the three-quarter mile pole, timed in 1:24, Kuebler would soon get what he expected as the field turned for home.
 
"At the top of the stretch he gave me the stretch kick that he's known for and opened up, thus I had no doubts midway down the stretch."
 
Owned by Richard Nittoly and Wendy Crissman, and trained by Jim Wilkinson Jr., the five year-old, who had $69,180 to show on him out of $74,724 in the show pool, would gradually expand the lead through the lane to win ($2.60) by 3-3/4 lengths, in 1:52.1, thus recording his fourth in-a-row.  D Jokerman (Steve Wiseman) finished in second, and Frankthebank finished another three-quarters of one length farther back, in third.
 
"I used him harder than normal early and was impressed that he fought them off and won so easily."
 
With his name now side by side with his Hall of Fame idol, and the blue boots he was known for now off for the final time, Kuebler, who was greeted in a giant winner’s circle ceremony by his family, fellow horsemen, and many friends, admits that the moment got to him, but earlier than most may think.
 
"I actually felt a little emotional when I came on to the track for my first drive of the night with Careys Royal Flush because I knew it was going to be my last night and possibly my last drive.  Then when I heard the roar from the crowd when my name was introduced in the post-parade -- it made me tear up.
 
"As for the win, I was gratified to go out on the 2007 California Horse of the Year whose name was apropos because harness racing has always been my California Dream," Kuebler eloquently concluded.
 
Live racing will resume at Cal-Expo on Sunday (January 27).   Post-time is at 5:35 p.m. (PST).  On Sunday, admission is free, plus Cal-Expo offers a complete Lasagna Dinner, with salad & bread, for just $3.00.   The estimated total Pick-6 total is $10.000.
 
Cal-Expo also offers Guaranteed $10,000 pools on all Pick-4's!