By Mari Ballinger
Get this: A jockey’s professional riding debut that also happens to be their first career win. If that doesn’t indicate their riding career is going to be something special, then what does?
It was June 17, 2018, Father’s Day, when Kelsi Harr first rode. She was aboard colt Bandit Point and took over in late stages to prevail under hand urging, keeping her family and friends on their toes while they watched her professional debut. Not only was Harr more than satisfied with the outcome, but also gave the ultimate Father’s Day surprise to her dad, who was cheering her on in the crowd.
It was her dad who originally got her into the industry, buying Harr a horse at the age of five. Harr would spend her days working in the barns, riding horses, and eventually barrel raced at local rodeos. Harr’s mom walked horses at Oaklawn Park so you could say the love for the animal was in their family blood.
Harr has been racing for more than a year and is proud of how far she has come. “I think this past year has been very successful,” commented Harr. “And I’ve also learned so much.”
She finished out the 2018 season with nine starts and one more trip to the Winner’s Circle, this time aboard colt Hard to Park in a maiden race with a $28,000 purse.
To Harr, the lessons learned are just as important as the number of times she crosses through first. “It’s hard to put into words what I’ve learned this past year,” said Harr. “I have more patience, a thicker skin, and I’ve learned that it’s necessary to put the bad races behind you and move on.”
Harr has 127 starts in the 2019 season, but still gets butterflies as she enters the gate. “I’m not nearly as nervous as I was last year, but I still get butterflies before each race. I hope that never goes away,” she added. The butterflies must be good luck, because Harr has five wins at Canterbury Park during the month of August- what an accomplishment for a jockey who hasn’t been in the game for long.
But what’s success without someone to share it with? For Harr, it’s her 7-year old daughter Lacey. “Everything I do is for that little girl,” said Harr with a smile on her face.
Lacey is a big-time animal lover, but her favorite? You guessed it: horses. She loves watching mom race on the weekends and “definitely runs the show”. Lacey starts second grade in the fall, right when Harr plans on traveling back to Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Harr won Friday night at Canterbury Park aboard filly Rosie’s Flower’s going gate to wire on the turf at odds of 12 to 1. Owner Curtis Sampson
and trainer Tony Rengstorf were in the Winner’s Circle to congratulate her and of course, Lacey was there to give her mom a big hug.