Kelsi Harr Says Goodbye To The Bug

Kelsi Harr‘s first mount was her first win. It came at Canterbury Park on June 17, 2018 aboard Bandit Point. It was Father’s Day. “It was a very special moment,” Harr said then. “My dad was here cheering me on and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off my riding career.” It

Bandit Point

was her father that gave Harr her first horse when she was five. That sparked a passion that lead from pleasure riding to barrel racing and eventually to a profession as a racehorse jockey.

She’s come a long way since that summer afternoon and last Thursday earned her 40th win which meant losing her ‘bug’, her apprentice rider weight allowance.

Harr greeted by fellow riders following first win in 2018.

Harr started slowly in 2018, learning the tricks of the trade. “When I first started I wanted to ride horses I rode in the morning,” she said. “I wanted to get comfortable and get my feet wet.” She rode mainly for her boyfriend Robert Cline at Canterbury. Nine mounts, two wins and in the money another three.

In 2019, she began the year in her home state of Arkansas at Oaklawn Park and continued at Canterbury with 154 mounts in all. Same schedule this year but with many more mounts, 285 thus far. At Oaklawn, a very competitive meet where top jockeys from around the country converge, she got an agent. “That helped me get into barns I would not have otherwise,” she said. Barns like those of Larry Jones and D. Wayne Lukas.  She also credits access and success to hard work and “being there every day”.

She’s enjoyed what she’s earned. Riding in stakes races, and riding well.  Highlights? “Getting to ride for bigger barns, earning their respect,” she said.  Goals? “I’ve won two in one day. I’m looking for a triple.”

Harr’s become a student of the game, watching and learning from other riders.” All the jocks here and at Oaklawn have been helpful.”  They provide constructive criticism while she watches and learns continually. “Some I watch and wonder how they do that,” she said, which causes her to work harder at her craft each day.

Harr has become a respected rider and a fan favorite with the trademark ponytail flowing from the back of her helmet and her affability with race fans, especially the young ones. This is a demanding sport. Athletically for sure but mentally as well, when meeting the expectations of owners, trainers and bettors is at times unrealistic.  She tries “not take everything to heart. I like people to like me.  You try to do the best you can by everybody.  I try to ride my race.”

She must also balance her career with her responsibilities of being the mother of an 8-year-old daughter who spent the summer in Shakopee. The third grader recently returned home to begin school, and Harr is grateful for the help of her mother and friends while she remains away, acknowledging that it would be very difficult without that assistance. Parenting in the COVID-19 pandemic has become even more challenging. Harr recalls early spring at Oaklawn when schools were suddenly closed. “I was getting on horses in the morning and running back to the tack room to make sure [my daughter] gets on Zoom.”

Harr begins serving a three-day suspension Monday for a careless riding infraction, returning to the saddle Thursday. She’ll have to shrug that off, maybe accept what one rider told her –   ‘If you haven’t gotten a set of days you haven’t started riding yet’ – because it is clear from the progress in her career that Kelsi Harr indeed has started riding.

Kelsi Harr Makes A Dream Come True

By Rebecca Roush

Growing up around horses, Kelsi Harr had always “dreamed of becoming a jockey,” but she always saw that idea as being “a little far-fetched,” she said. After her father purchased a horse for her when she was just 5-years-old, Harr took every chance she could to work with and ride horses. She later took up barrel racing at local rodeos. “I couldn’t get enough of it,” Harr recalled.

Harr’s mother was walking horses at Oaklawn Park when Harr began attending college in 2010. She was invited to hot walk and work with the horses part-time. Enamored with the atmosphere, Harr made the decision to change her career path and take on the job full-time that winter. It was at the track that she met her now fiancé, Robert Cline, a horse trainer at Canterbury Park. She continued to take on various jobs at Oaklawn over the years before making the decision to begin her professional riding career weeks ago at Canterbury Park.

Her first career mount also brought Harr her first win while riding Bandit Point on June 17, Father’s Day. “It was a very special moment,” Harr said. “My dad was here cheering me on and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off my riding career.” The 25-year-old rider credits her father for piquing her interest in horses and says it “all started with him.”

Being new to Minnesota, Harr says she enjoys the area and finds it a good place for her daughter, Lacey (6) to be. “Everything I do is for that little girl,” Harr said. Harr plans to stay riding at Canterbury for the meet and then head back to the family’s home in Arkansas when school starts up for Lacey.

Having the ability to work with the horses before riding them is something that Harr believes gives her an advantage. “By working in the barn and being around these horses as much as I am, I really get to know them,” she said.

In the days leading up to a race day, Harr says that there is a lot of excitement while things come together in the barn. “It really gives you something to look forward to,” Harr commented. “There is a lot of energy in the air as everyone anxiously hopes that the horse does well.”

Since receiving her first horse Harr has had a “love for the animals and a passion for riding,” she said. “It took me a while to realize that this could all be a reality, but I am sure glad that I did.”

First Mount, First Win

Jockey Kelsi Harr made her career riding debut a winning one when she guided Bandit Point to a one length victory in the third race on Father’s Day for trainer Robert Cline.

The 25-year-old from Arkansas positioned her charge just off the pace and swung into action in the stretch to challenge the favorite, R H Smoakem, who quickly folded as Bandit Point, at 11 to 1 odds, pulled away.  Harr was greeted in the winner’s circle by other members of the jockey colony who, as is the tradition when a rider gets her first win, doused Harr in water and talcum powder.

Ziggy!!!

One race after Harr won, a very familiar face to long-time Minnesota race fans also found the winner’s circle: Mike Ziegler.  Ziggy was a fixture on the scene here from 1995 through 2007. He returned to Canterbury this season primarily to gallop horses, knowing he would pick up an occasional mount as well. His first such mount was a winner on Andrea’s Halo for trainer Joe Merrick.  Sunday’s win was the 377th at Canterbury for Ziegler, 52, and the 2,501th in a career that began in 1987.