Monday, February 8, 2016

Kelly Tough Wins for Plesa Team, in Honor of QB Kelly

Anyone who has battled cancer or has a loved one who has fought the disease might find an inspiration and a rooting interest in the 3-year-old colt Kelly Tough.

Kelly Tough, trained by Eddie Plesa Jr. and named for NFL Hall of  Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, was an impressive maiden special weight winner at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

In the 11th race Kelly Tough and jockey Paco Lopez split horses entering the stretch, battled for the lead and went on to beat Happy's Causeway by a half-length.  He won in 1:51.20 at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt track listed as fast.  Bettors sent him off at 5-1 as the fourth choice in an 11-horse field. 

Kelly Tough is owned by David Melin, Leon Ellman and Laurie Plesa, who is Eddie's wife.

Here's the connection between Plesa, who has 2,258 career training wins, and Kelly, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback.

Several years ago, Plesa (photo below) battled and beat prostate cancer and Kelly battled and beat jaw cancer.

Early last year, Plesa saw a TV documentary on Kelly and the inspirational book that his wife Jill and daughter Erin wrote about him. The title is "Kelly Tough: Live Courageously By Faith."

Plesa contacted Jim Kelly, who appreciated the trainer's idea of naming a horse Kelly Tough.

Plesa and his team reserved the name with the Jockey Club and waited for a horse with the kind of breeding they felt might live up to it.

They chose a Maryland-bred son of Quality Road, and bought him for $250,000 at an Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. sale in April 2015.

Quality Road won the  Florida Derby (Grade 1) in 2009 and the Donn  Handicap (Grade 1) at Gulfstream in 2010. Kelly Tough's maternal grand sire is Two Smart, a winner of several two-turn stakes at Pimlico in Maryland in the late 1990s.

Kelly Tough made his first start on Jan. 16  in a  seven furlong MSW race at Gulfstream. He   was 30-1 in an 11-horse field  with several other horses by big-name sires.

With Lopez riding, Kelly Tough was fifth entering the turn. He made a strong move on the outside and rallied to finish second by 2 1/4 lengths to the Todd Pletcher-trained Boalt Hall who won in 1:23.81 on a fast track.

Kelly Tough came in 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Star Hill, who finished third.

Boalt Hall is nominated for next Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade 3) at 1 1/16 miles at Tampa Bay Downs.

Following Saturday's win, Plesa said he will soon  find a next race for Kelly Tough.

The colt improved his Equibase speed figure from 85 in his first start to 92 (strong for a 3-year-old) on Saturday. So, an allowance could be the next step. 

Mr. Jordan is the most prominent horse in Plesa's barn. That 4-year-colt is owned by Melin, Ellman and Laurie Plesa.

Plesa is pointing Mr. Jordan toward the $100,000 Challenger Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on dirt, on March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Mr. Jordan has four wins in ten career starts, with three wins in stakes. On Jan. 16 at Gulfstream, he finished second in the 1 1/8 mile Sunshine Millions Classic for Florida-breds.
--Jim Freer

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please post your comment to our blog. It will be moderated and approved in a timely manner, then posted. Thanks for reading !

HorseRacing FLA staff