by Rich Fisher
Fans of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie, which is being seen with regularity these days, are familiar with the line Clark Griswold’s co-worker delivers, when he tells Clark, “You are the last true family man.”
That may fit well for the movie, but there’s a real-life challenger to the title.
Kyle Caulfield, a father of two who is engaged to be married, would love nothing more than to take a serious shot at being a Standardbred driver. He’s picked up some drives here and there, and actually got his first win on Nov. 17.
He would certainly like to go after some more, but for now he is committed to being the second trainer for Tom Fanning in New Jersey.
“The reason I’m not trying to pursue the career of driving is because I have a family to support,” said the 30-year-old Caulfield, who is father to 6-year-old Zoee and 1-year-old Briella. “You know this business. You could make no money for a couple months driving. I need to make sure I have a guaranteed paycheck to feed my family at the end of the day.
“I want to provide and be there for them, and have them have a great life. That’s why I’m out busting my butt, doing whatever I can for them.
“Would I like to drive? Of course. My main goal is to drive horses, be a catch driver, be a trainer. I would like to be on my own as time goes on. But for now, as long as I can work with Tom Fanning, I’ve got his back and he’s got mine.”
Caulfield has had some decent success in his brief stint in the sulky, picking up a few third-place finishes at Freehold while driving Fanning horses.
“Whatever I can pick up, I try to pick up,” he said.
His first victory came at Freehold with Bull Wheel, a horse he trains that is owned by his mom, Judy Caulfield.
“I was in pretty easy,” he said. “I went off at like, one to five. I was probably the best in the field anyway. I just left out of there, grabbed the front and I think I won by eight. He’s a family horse, he’s a good boy. It was a good feeling. I was happy to do it for my dad, that means more than anything.”
Kyle’s father, Joe Gulotta, has owned, trained and bred horses throughout central New Jersey. Kyle, now an Old Bridge resident, was born into the business. He wasn’t into it much as a youth, as he was more intent on riding BMX bikes.
“That’s what I was really into,” he said.
Caulfield began working seriously with horses around age 16.
“It was just like a family business,” Caulfield said. “We never hit a Breeders Crown or anything like that. We just did overnight races. Nothing that blew up. My dad always did it on his own, he never really had owners. He just did it for a hobby.”
At age 18, Caulfield started going out on his own and got his trainer’s license in 2005. He just recently obtained his driver’s license.
“I’ve been driving qualifiers for a couple years,” he said. “I always wanted to drive, it was just hard getting drives, no one wanted to put you up. Pretty much, in the horse business, you’ve got to have money or have people behind you; that’s the main key. You’ve got to have cash flow. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts. You’ve got to have backing. I’ve tried to make the best with whatever I had.”
Caulfield will continue to work for Fanning, who has a hefty stable of 30 horses with several turned out. He’s still young enough to envision becoming independent, but will see how things develop.
“I want to pursue driving, want to train my own, drive when I can,” he said. “I feel every start I get better and better. Time will only tell, we’ll see what happens. If I get myself a couple good drives and people like me, then they’ll throw me on.”
In the meantime, he and Clark will just keep doing what’s best for the family.