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Kuebler to hang up his blue boots tonight

January 26, 2008

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Rick Kuebler plans to hang up his whip and those famous blue boots at the conclusion of tonight\'s program at Cal-Expo, and it\'s no coincidence that his next victory in the sulky will be No. 4,284 in his career.


\"That\'s how many wins Joe O\'Brien had when he retired,\" Kuebler explained.  \"He was an idol of mine, and I told myself that if I was ever fortunate enough to get close, I would retire when I got to that number.\"


Rick got hooked on harness racing when he was 15 years old when his father, Howie, brought him out to see the trotters and pacers. Not only did he see the horses, but he also became a huge Joe O\'Brien fan in the process, not realizing that he would have the chance to drive against this legendary horseman down the road.


\"I was very enthusiastic about getting into the sport, but I didn\'t have any connections, so my parents actually bought my first two horses. Eventually, my brother Fred got involved and put together a group of friends and family that became the My Hero Racing Stable, which was named after my parents\' submarine sandwich shop.\"


 It was in the mid \'70s that Rick got his first chance to drive against his idol O\'Brien, and he made the most of it.


\"At the time, Joe was driving sparingly as he was in the latter stages of his career,\" Rick related. \"I\'ll never forget the first time I drove in a race with him.  During the score-down before the race, I came alongside and said, \'I haven\'t seen you around here, are you any good?\' 
He looked over and smiled and said, \'I\'m all right.\' I smiled back and said, \'Just stay out of my way\'.  I\'ve always liked the idea of pulling up along side Joe once again and then retiring. I always felt that by attaining that -- if someone down the road realized I was a harness driver and asked me if I was any good, I could honestly tell them, \'I was all right.\'\"


With Howie, Fred, and mother Elise in his corner, Rick was soon a force to reckon with in the Hollywood Park, Sacramento and Los Alamitos driver\'s rooms.


For the record, the recently turned 54-year-old Rick Kuebler comes into this weekend with 4,283 wins and close to $20 million in earnings.  As for the great horses and memorable races, they go on and on.


\"I would have to say that Courageous Red was one of my very favorites and certainly one of the best Cal-breds of all time.  There was also a terrific mare named Doodlin, the game Guts, and of course the very popular Hi Ho Silverheel\'s. They all gave me a lot of wonderful memories.\"


And the one race that sticks out for Kuebler?


\"Definitely my first win, which came right here at Sacramento in 1973 with Alex Wejover. To go from a fan as a teenager to winning a race was an amazing feeling. It doesn\'t get better than that.\"


This March, Kuebler will be inducted into the California Harness Horsemen\'s Association Hall of Fame, along with owner Lloyd Arnold and performers I\'m Dam Goog and Denali.


Rick is also quick to point out that he couldn\'t have reached this point without the support of his mom and dad, his brother, Fred, and of course his wife, Terry, and their daughter, Kacey.


\"My wife and daughter, because of the nature of the business, had to put up with a lot of nights where dad wasn\'t home, but they were always there for me.\" (Sacramento Harness Association) 


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