J GARVAN KELLY
-Won the El Primero Del Ano Derby in 2005 with Dutch Schultz
-Won the Los Alamitos Million Futurity with Value The Man in 2005
-Won Southern California Derby in 2005 with Spike It And Fly
Growing up in Ireland before moving to the United States in 1958, J. Garvan Kelly was far more familiar with Steeplechase racing than anything relating to Quarter Horse racing. All that changed when a friend brought him to Los Alamitos Race Course for the running of the Los Alamitos Derby. The year was 1980 and the winning horse was Viking Copy, who posted a memorable victory. The sight of powerful Quarter Horses sprinting down the straightaway captured Kelly's imagination and he has been involved in the sport ever since.
"I saw these powerful horses and this exciting race and that was it for me," Kelly said. "I totally fell in love with the sport."
Kelly bought his first Quarter Horse that very same year.
"I did not have the capital to compete at the horse sales for the real good horses," he said. "So I figured that I would just try to claim good, honest, hard-knocking mares and try to build my own breeding program in that way."
More than 20 years later, Kelly's vision has truly become a reality. His outstanding gelding Dutch Schultz, which he owns in a partnership with Nancy Yearsley, won the El Primero Del Ano Derby earlier this year and was third in last year's Golden State Million. Kelly also campaigns Golden State Million finalist Court Etiquette and Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes finalist Hurried Connection. "Things have gone really well and we are tickled pink," said Kelly, who splits his time living in Culver City and Palm Desert. "I have a farm in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma called EIRE Stock Farms (Eire is the name of southern Ireland as prescribed in the 1937 Constitution). EIRE Farms is where we bring up a lot of our horses. I bought the land raw many years ago - there was nothing on it - and that allowed me to lay the farm the way I wanted to. We have all-natural springs running all over the farm and we are fortunate in that we get great quality hay.
Years before watching his Quarter Horses fight it out on the track. Kelly was involved in a few fights himself, as the middleweight amateur boxing champion in Ireland. Kelly's exploits in the squared circle earned him a boxing scholarship to San Jose State University.
"That was back when college boxing was a big deal," Kelly said. "I had a great time and loved California so much that I decided to stay."
Kelly went on to make his money importing and selling the world-renown Swedish made Duxiana bed. Right now, it is could be the success of his horses that are helping Kelly sleep so well.
El/LA Primera 2008
When Friday and Saturday night's action packed stakes weekend rolls around, longtime owners and breeders J.Garvan Kelly and Nancy Yearsley will find himself in the enviable position of sending out one horse in each of this week's major derbies at Los Alamitos. Kelly and horse ownership partner Yearsley will be represented by the talented Bannow Bay in Friday night's $182,600 El Primero Del Ano Derby and the three-time-winning filly Answer The Dream on the following night in Saturday's $254,000 La Primera Del Ano Derby.
Breeding and racing horses has been a way of life for J. Garvan Kelly, a native of Ireland, who relocated to California at the age of nineteen. "I got into racing in 1981," said Kelly. "Then after I moved to New York I got out of it for a while and picked it up again when I came back to California." Most Los Alamitos racing fans probably associate J. Garvan Kelly's name with Value The Man, the winner of the 2005 Los Alamitos Million Futurity. "It was a great feeling to win a race like the Million," said Kelly. "The money is one thing, but the prestige is another. It was really a great honor."
Garvan's base operation is located at his farm in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. "I've got about 15 or 16 broodmares there and roughly the same number of yearlings and weanlings," added Kelly. "Outside of my ranch, I have probably ten or twelve horses in training. I like to start all of my horses at home in Oklahoma. (We bring) fresh horses out here to California that are ready to compete at their very best."
Bannow Bay will be facing some outstanding horses in the El Primero Del Ano Derby and Kelly is anxious to see how he performs at this level. "This horse just needs time to find his stride and if he does that then he can really finish well," commented Kelly. "I think he's just starting to grow into himself right now too. After her runs back in the derby we're going to ship him to Remington Park for the Heritage Place Derby trials, which we think it will be a really good fit for him."
Many of the horses that have raced in the past for owners Garvan Kelly and Nancy Yearsley have been conditioned by leading trainer Paul Jones. Bannow Bay is an exception though. "Chris O'Dell trains this horse for us," added Kelly. "I think he's a really good horseman. This is actually the second horse we've had with Chris. We also had one named Start Anew together."
Bannow Bay was very fractious in the gates prior to the start of his El Primero trial, but did break sharply and ran a quality third place finish behind fastest qualifier Fighter On Fire. "Another thing that most people didn't notice was that the (jockey) riding the horse for us, actually lost his whip right after the start and wasn't really able to engage him early. I think that Fighter On Fire and Ought To Be Rapid are both going to be really tough coming back, but I still like my horse's chances."
DREAMIN' OF LA PRIMERA
La Primera Del Ano Derby finalist Answer The Dream began her career where most of Garvan Kelly's horses do: in Oklahoma. Originally trained by Charley Hunt (and briefly by Brandon Parum as well), this chestnut filly has really blossomed in California under the care of AQHA Champion trainer Paul Jones. "Having Paul train your horse is just a huge benefit all the way around," said Kelly. "He does all of the little things right, little quirks with each horse, changes in their diet, you name it. Also, this filly really seemed like the type that would develop later and that turned out to be a pretty good assessment. She's turned into a really nice filly."
Upon arriving in California, Answer The Dream had made five career starts, all in Oklahoma, and had yet to visit the winner's circle. In her very first out at Los Alamitos, she woke up in a big way. The three-year-old daughter of Tres Seis crushed a field of maidens by two lengths, and earned a 96-speed index for the win. She would also win her next two starts and bring an impressive three-race win streak into the finals of the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Derby in February. In her next start, she was victorious over allowance company despite a stumbled start and then went on to defeat a very strong field of horses in her Winter Derby trial that included Fighter On Fire and Magic Show Czech.
"She ran a pretty good race in the Derby," Garvan added. "I really felt like she could have beaten the boys that day. I even bet her pretty good too because she went off at such a high price at 9-1."
In the trials to the La Primera Del Ano Derby, Answer The Dream dueled throughout and was closing ground on My Lady First before the wire. "Another jump and I think we would have caught her," said Kelly. "She's just a really honest horse. She always leaves the gates alertly and she just doesn't have any quit in her. I think she can beat any filly on the grounds if she has good racing luck."
Following the La Primera Del Ano, Garvan Kelly and part-owners Nancy Yearsley and Lloyd Yother intend to give Answer The Dream some time off and freshen her for the trials of the $750,000 Los Alamitos Super Derby, to be run in mid-October.