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Kelly’s Enjoying The Ride

Published: February 12, 2018 3:25 pm ET

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You don’t have to convince Dave Kelly about Murphy’s Law – the old adage which postulates that whatever can go wrong will go wrong.

Two months ago, Kelly, a harness trainer and catch driver lived through that nightmare. “It was terrible. It seemed like if one of my horses wasn’t sick it was sore. And if they weren’t sore they were sick,” said Kelly. “Mostly it was the latter. A virus went through a lot of barns and mine was no different." In short, nothing went right.

“It was a never-ending ride,” said Kelly. “One horse would get sick and I’d have to scratch it. Then another horse would get sick and I’d have to scratch that one, too. Thank God the calendar changed.”

And did it ever change.

Ever since the page flipped to 2018, Kelly has easily been the hottest driver at Northlands. He recently won four races on a single card two weekends in a row, and none of those victories came aboard favourites.

“I’d never won four races on a card before,” said Kelly, 28. “Now it’s happened twice. I guess the goal now is to try and win five races on a single card.” The way Kelly is going, it would by folly to dismiss that proposition.

Originally from Nova Scotia, there should have been little doubt as to what Kelly was going to do for a living after he graduated from Cape Breton University with a business degree while majoring in accounting. After all, his father, David B. Kelly, a construction worker, still drives and trains – including handling a horse, Elmgrove Misty, who won the richest race (a purse of $19,000) ever at Nova Scotia’s Northside Downs last year. Furthermore, both of his grandfathers drove, he has three uncles that were into harness racing and his younger brother, Colin, 24, races in Ontario where he won 123 races last year.

And, if that isn’t enough, Kelly’s cousin, Ryan Campbell, is also a trainer and driver. “Colin and I started at a very early age. Both of us were jogging horses when we were just six or seven years old. As soon as we were able to reach the cross bar we’d get thrown on the bike and have some fun.”

Yet, it wasn’t all that cut and dried, and it still took somewhat of a circuitous path to get Kelly into harness racing on a full-time basis. “While I was at university, I catch drove some horses in Cape Breton. But it was just a hobby then. Beginning in 2009, I came out to Alberta to work in the oil field during the summers to help pay for my university schooling, but when the industry slowed down there weren’t a lot of jobs left and I got laid off while working at Redwater, Alberta, where I was a pipe fitter.”

That was when Kelly got the call that would change his life.

“Greg Manning, whom I had met through my cousin, Ryan, when he was racing here, called me in October of 2015 and said that Cathy Reid and her Riverside stable was looking for someone to train her horses. I didn’t have anything else at the time, so I said ‘sure.’ I always loved harness racing. But until I got the phone call from Greg it was always just as a hobby.

“Being around horses was never like a job; it never felt like work, so I thought ‘why not?’ And I also had one horse at the time. If I hadn’t gotten laid off I might still be a pipe fitter, but this was a chance to do what I always loved. I’m really glad I made the decision (I) did,” said Kelly, who, through Manning, had also become good friends with Northlands’ leading driver, Phil Giesbrecht.

“Phil was going out with one of Gerry Hudon’s daughters, Jocelyn, and Gerry’s farm is only about 15 minutes away from Redwater. I used to go to Gerry’s farm all the time, which is where I had the one horse I owned stabled. I worked nights at Redwater; I’d finish work at 6 a.m. and head over to Gerry’s farm. When I was done there I’d go back to Redwater get some sleep and go back to work. “Then I’d do it all again the next day. So, while working with the horses was just a hobby at the time, it was also well embedded in my blood.”

A year and a half ago, Kelly decided to take the next step: He left Riverside and went out on his own. Now with a stable of just six horses, Kelly is looking to add on a few more.

“With Mike Dicks, I just bought a four-year-old maiden out of Pennsylvania named Anywhereanytime. He’s a son of Somebeachsomewhere and out of the mare Los Angeles, which makes him a half brother to Thinking Out Loud, who won the U.S. Pacing Championship in 1:47.2 and won just under $2 million.” Anywhereanytime’s family also includes L A Delight, who won $1.6 million and paced in 1:49.1, and Somewhere In L A, who won $1.3 million and paced in 1:48.4.

“Thinkingoutloud didn’t get good until he was four years old, too. Hopefully Anywhereanytime will find that breeding himself. He’s got some size to him, so we’re hoping. Everything is working out well this year. I’m happy with where I’m at.”

(Courtesy /Curtis Stock)

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