Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Kelly Scott has raced horses with his family for 45 years.
“It’s our hobby,” he said. “I don’t fish, I don’t hunt, I don’t travel, I just go play with my horses.”
Scott vividly remembers the first. It didn’t go well. “There was an auction in Belleville at the Belleville Fairgrounds,” he recalled. “We didn’t buy a horse and then the auctioneer said ‘we’ve got one more to bring out, we forgot about this one.’ They brought it out and we bid on it and we got it for $350. She was no good.
“That got us started, though, and then we slowly climbed up from there.”
Local racing was especially a highlight at the Quinte Exhibition and Raceway. That’s “When we raced in Belleville, it was like family,” he said. “I was 17, my first good horse was called Noted Knight, I was in Grade 12. Everybody was out going to bush parties and I was racing on Friday nights. They said ‘look at the fun you missed’ and that horse made me $7,000 and that was a long time ago so it was good money and he won horse of the year. I learned so much from that horse, it was pretty neat.”
It was just Friday night fun. You could see family members of all ages sitting together taking in the action. Earning money was great, if you did well. If you didn’t, Scott said, at least it was a quick trip back home. “Belleville was just homey,” Scott said.
It was almost like a training ground as well and Scott continued to learn the ins and outs of racing horses, making some great connections along the way. As the years went on, racing became more of a business with larger purses of prize money and the challenges increased. “It’s a tough business, very tough,” he said.
Scott sees four keys to success with race horses.
“Luck, patience, perseverance and getting a good driver,” he said.
A good driver is important, but as Scott has learned over the years, having success with a driver one or two weeks in a row doesn’t guarantee they will drive for you the next week.
Currently, Kelly Scott has a horse named SOS Justified while his brother Randy has Major Motion and Malvolio. They raced at Rideau-Carleton in Ottawa during the winter. Scott noted the benefit of that raceway was the ability to watch from home sometimes via simulcast.
During the summer months, the horses race almost weekly at Kawartha Downs in Peterborough, which opened for the season on May 28.
There’s a lot of work involved when it comes to exercising, feeding and other care for the horses, but it’s all part of the experience. It’s important to keep the horses racing, which is why I continue throughout the winter months. Otherwise “it can take three to five months to get a horse back in shape,” Kelly Scott noted.
Keeping the horses healthy is a top priority, especially to help them prevent catching viruses when they’re around 100 other horses at a track. “They can get sick really easily, so you have to stay on top of that,” Scott said.
SOS Justified won two races in a row during the winter, which amounted to $6,400 in prize money. “We bought him last fall and he won three races in a row for us,” Scott said, adding SOS Justified won 15 races in total and was the second or third most winningest horse in Canada.
Even placing out of the top three can at least cover gas to get to the races and for the care of the horses.
“You don’t get rich, but you pay the bills,” Scott said.
At the end of the day, he just loves his horses.