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From Pipefitter To Driving Champ?

Published: June 21, 2016 8:25 am ET

Last Comment: June 22, 2016 7:55 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

When Dave Kelly takes part in the Western Regional Driving Championship at Century Downs on Sunday, June 26, there will be a lot of racing fans and family members on the east coast of the country cheering him on.

Kelly, now of Calgary, Alberta, grew up in a harness racing family on Cape Breton Island, and inherited his love of the sport from his father and two grandfathers. His family is made up of harness racing enthusiasts; including his brother, who is a driver, as well as his three uncles and two cousins who also train and drive.

Dave was one of the Atlantic Bursary recipients in 2008 and put it to good use, graduating with a degree in Business with a major in Accounting. He’s also licensed as a pipefitter.

In 2007, he started training a few horses and then two years later, he made his driving debut at Northside Downs in Sydney, N.S.

Kelly made the trek to Alberta in October 2014 to find work as a pipefitter. He worked in the trade for almost a year when he was laid off in July, 2015. He then went to PEI and stayed through until the end of Old Home Week.

In September 2015, he made a big move across the country to race full-time in Alberta where he quickly made a name for himself. He purchased two horses and received an offer from Cathy Reid’s Riverside Stables, based in Water Valley, to train their horses. Now 25, he currently trains seven racehorses, and two two-year-olds for Riverside and has two of his own.

In addition to training and driving, Dave shoes his own horses, something he learned when he was 13 or 14 years old.

Even though he’s over 3,000 miles from home, he talks to his Dad after most race cards and his family follows his career diligently. “My Dad was out for the ASHA awards. (Dave was nominated for a Rising Star Award & Driver of the Year Award) I even got him to drive one of my horses,” he explained.

In 2015, Kelly had 113 drives with 13 wins, 14 seconds and 17 thirds. He’s on track for his best driving season this year with 174 drives under his belt, 19 trips to the winner’s circle and just over $106,000 in purse earnings. This is the eighth season of driving for the talented young reinsman and only the fourth season where he’s had over 75 drives. Lifetime he has 64 wins and almost $200,000 in purse earnings.

As for Kelly’s future, he plans on staying in Alberta for a while. “I think I will stay for a while; it doesn’t feel like work; I get up and go to the barn every day. I like it and I’m going to ride it out and see where it takes me.”

Accustomed to the half mile ovals in PEI and NS, Kelly found it a bit of an adjustment to go to a bigger track, and he’s very excited about competing in the WRDC. “It’s going to be very exciting! All of the drivers are top class and the open draw makes things more fair.”

Does he miss home? “I do find I miss home more in the summer,” he admits, “Out here, there are no beaches and no lobster!”

The schedule for the Regional Championships are as follows:

Ontario Regional -- Grand River Raceway; Friday, June 24

Atlantic Regional -- Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park; Saturday, June 25

Western Regional -- Century Downs; Sunday, June 26

Quebec / Eastern Ontario Regional -- Hippodrome 3R; Tuesday, July 12

Drivers will receive points based on their finishing position and the top two drivers from each regional competition will advance to the 2016 National Driving Championship scheduled for Friday, October 14 at The Raceway at Western Fair District.

The winner of the NDC will represent Canada in harness racing's 2017 World Driving Championship, hosted by Standardbred Canada in concert with the World Trotting Conference in August. The 2017 WDC will kick off in the west at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino in Calgary, AB. The drivers will then head to Ontario for the next two legs. Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville will host the second leg followed by the third leg at Georgian Downs in Innisfil. The action then moves to Quebec where Hippodrome 3R will host the fourth leg. Finally, drivers will head to Prince Edward Island and Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park for the fifth and final leg of the Championship.

June 22, 2016 - 7:55 pmAll the best to you on Sunday

dave kelly SAID...

All the best to you on Sunday we will be watching and cheering you on.
So proud to call you my son. KEEP CALM AND DRIVE ON !!!

June 21, 2016 - 1:40 pmGood luck David! All the best

Good luck David! All the best from the boys at NSD.

June 21, 2016 - 10:08 amBest of racing luck, Dave

billy graham SAID...

Best of racing luck, Dave

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