Kakaley returns to sulky Saturday at Pocono
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Kakaley was injured at Yonkers Raceway when the horse he was driving took a bad step and went down. Kakaley was thrown to the track and suffered injuries that required three surgeries, including one for a broken orbital bone and another for a fractured collarbone. He has spent the past month rehabbing and getting in shape for his return.
"I put on a few pounds just sitting around," Kakaley said with a laugh. "That's the goal right now, to get those off and be fit again."
Kakaley is grateful for all the well wishes he received following the accident and the support of his friends and family, including his mom Linda, longtime partner Annie Larrabee and her mom Debbie, as well as trainer Ron Burke and fellow drivers Andy McCarthy and Mark MacDonald.
"It showed me how many really good friends I really do have and how special my family is," Kakaley said. "It was a tough time, but I had a good support system and people who were there for me to make it a little bit easier."
Kakaley, who set a career high with $9.04 million in purses last year, has 62 wins and $1.07 million in purses this season. Last week, he trained several horses for Burke in preparation for this weekend.
"I just wanted to make sure it feels good sitting behind a horse and going a mile," said Kakaley, who has 4,169 career wins. "I felt great. The shoulder wasn't bothering me at all, so I figured I was ready to go.
"The last two weeks or so I've been feeling really good, but I didn't want to come back too soon. I had to wait it out. It's for the better because I don't want to reinjure it."
Kakaley's drives on Saturday include Aleppo Hanover in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers and Rockin Ron and Check Six in divisions of the Great Northeast Open Series for male pacers.
In addition, Kakaley is one of the drivers participating in this weekend's Trotting 4 Charity event.
Trotting 4 Charity, organized by TrotCast's Ryan Macedonio, will be held May 18-20 at racetracks throughout North America. Participating drivers and trainers will wear a custom-made replica jersey of their own colors, with their selected charity logo displayed on the jersey.
During the weekend, drivers will race in their jersey. After the event, auctions will be held for fans to bid on the jerseys and all proceeds from winning bids will be donated to the corresponding charities. Kakaley's charity is Marley's Mission, which is based near Pocono and provides equine-based psychotherapy free of charge to children, and their families, who have experienced trauma.
"I think it's a great event and I thought Marley's Mission was a perfect fit," Kakaley said. "I wanted to do something locally and this is great exposure for them, as well as harness racing." (Ken Weingartner/USTA)