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Motivated Pilot Aims For Stakes Win

Published: September 12, 2014 12:32 pm ET

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Driver Matt Krueger is hoping to secure his first Super Night Championship victory on Saturday when he guides the Nelson Willis-trained Molly Go Lightly in the $142,000 Grandma Ann for sophomore pacing fillies.

Krueger, 39, of Manteno, IL, did win a consolation event on Super Night one year ago, when he steered Sports Fanatic to a win in the $25,000 Maurello consolation in 1:51.2 for trainer Bruce Pacitti. As well, he piloted the Homer Hochstetler-conditioned American Empress to a fourth-place finish in the $105,000 Lady Ann Reed Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies on Super Night 2013.

Krueger is just in his third year of driving horses professionally, but already has reined horses to $442,789 in earnings from 73 career triumphs. Last year he drove 60 winners to $342,875 in seasonal earnings as a part-time reinsman.

“I always wanted to drive, but really didn’t get motivated until my grandfather passed away a few years ago,” Krueger said. “I wanted more than ever to carry on his legacy.”

Krueger’s family is immersed in the Illinois harness racing scene – his grandfather, John Finn, conditioned the well-known trotter Ouchy, 8, 1:58M ($176,185), while his uncle, J.D. Finn, was the trainer-driver behind Illinois million-dollar bonus winner Koochie 2, 1:58.3m ($699,797). His second cousin, Roy Finn, is the starter at Maywood and Balmoral.

“I took my grandfather’s colours,” Matt explained. “I got a great break when Ford laid me off for two years and I went to work for Homer Hochstetler. He put me on some of his really good horses, and things have just progressed from there.”

When Matt isn’t driving horses, he’s working at the Kansas City-based Ford Motor Company plant as a production assistant, a position he’s held for 20 years.

“It’s a good job, but my passion definitely is with the horses,” Matt stressed.

Molly Go Lightly, an obscurely-bred daughter of Lexington Legend, took a mark of 1:54.1 as a two-year-old, earning $56,895 from six wins. This season, she’s scored two triumphs, including a 1:55 score in her prep at Balmoral last week with Matt at the lines.

“I had driven this filly earlier in the season in a stake elim, and finished third with her, but hadn’t driven her since until last week,” Matt explained. “I really get along well with her. She’s kind of quirky in that she gets grabby behind the gate, but if you don’t fight her and just ease her out of there, she’ll be okay. Once you get her ducked over to the rail, she’s easy to race.”

Owned by the Sawgrass Farms of Lockport, IL, Molly Go Lightly is the second of three foals out of the All American Ingot mare Waggle p, 3, Q1:59.1M ($10,813), and is a full sister to the gelding Shotgun Shack p,3,1:56H ($26,168).

“She wears a full hood, so she’s got some issues, and a bit of a tender mouth, so if you grab into her hard and fight her, she gets anxious,” Matt noted. “In her prep race, the two favourites got away dead last and had a breaker in front of them, so they were kind of out of the action until the stretch. We had soft fractions but this filly can go with them, regardless.”

Molly Go Lightly did pace her final quarter in :28.2 after jogging through fractions of :57.2 and 1:26.2 on the front end in her prep race.

“Nelson (trainer Willis) is good at teaming drivers up with horses,” Matt said. “He’s sharp at seeing what drivers get along with certain types of horses. To give me a shot on Super Night is a definite boost of confidence, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity.”

Matt, donning his red and white colours, with the distinctive cross on the sleeves, will also be behind the sophomore trotting filly Lora Lee Breeze in Saturday’s Lady Ann Reed stakes.

(Balmoral)


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