Kelly Hoerdt had always considered a career in harness racing when he was at school but it wasn't until Sarepta Mile came along that he decided to drop all plans of becoming a hockey player in favour of working and driving standardbreds.
Sarepta Mile was a son of General Gray (Lieutenant Gray - Shamrock Sally - Dean Hanover) who won eight races and placed 19 times in the 1980s. Hoerdt was just a teenager and paid a few hundred dollars for a half share in the brown gelding. His brother Glen did the training.
“It was that horse that gave me the bug. He was winning money for us and the harness racing game seemed all too easy - and I thought I want more of this. When he kept winning all thoughts of other careers flew out the window. From that moment on all I could think about was harness racing,” Hoerdt told Harnesslink.
Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) born Hoerdt then went in boots and all. He left high school in the eighth grade aged about 16 and worked for his father Fred who was based in Calgary (Alberta) at the time. But not long after Hoerdt junior realised that if he wanted his trainer’s and drivers license he would have to relocate.
“I went back to Saskatchewan because you could get your trainer’s and driver’s license a year quicker than what you could in Alberta. Since then I’ve never looked back,” the 6 foot tall, 45 year-old said.
Hoerdt travelled around and worked in Minnesota, California, New Jersey, and British Columbia before settling back in Alberta.
He’s now been training in that province on and off for 25 years and these days bases himself out of Beaumont – a town in Leduc County 3.5 kilometres south of the Edmonton City (Alberta) boundary.
“Even though harness racing is going through a transitional period here, and we are still waiting for a new track to be built, I enjoy training in Beaumont. I mainly drive and train at Alberta Downs and sometimes Northlands Park.
“This is where my family and friends are and where I’ve spent the majority of my life. It’s home,” he said.
“Even though there are obstacles here, I have always believed in Alberta,” he added.
With a consistent .300-plus training and driving average, few drivers can boast a 100-win training and driving record – but Hoerdt can.
He has won the Alberta driving and training title once each and is regularly in the top three of those two premierships.
Since 1986 Hoerdt has driven 1,431 winners, 2,740 place-getters and won just over $8.5 million in purses. His best year came in 2000 when he drove 117 winners but stakes-wise 2008 was his best when he won $928,878.
As a trainer he has stacked up 1.103 wins, 1,964 place-getters and won $7.6 million in stakes. His best years were 2005 and 2007 when he won 74 races and $1,138,325 respectively.
In 2011 Hoerdt has already won 15 races in the bike and 34 as a trainer.
He works a team of 33 and has six staff working for him. In recent years he has switched from training claimers and aged horses to 2 & 3-year-olds.
“There’s more money in the younger horses and this season I’m really enjoying developing them. I can’t say I’m disappointed with any of my babies at this stage. None have gone by the wayside yet and that’s not something I can usually say at this time of the year. Mind you this is harness racing and anything can happen and change overnight,” Hoerdt said.
In the 3-year-old ranks he singled out a Brandons Cowboy filly – Im Sheila as one of his best while of his 12 two-year-olds he liked Rocktail party (by), Clintons Bruiser (Clintons Cigar).
As for the older brigade Hoerdt also made mention of Stabilo, 20 wins $258,699 (), River lass, 16 wins $248,000 ( ) and Major Domo, 13 wins $304,000 ( ).
Hoerdt is divorced and has two children – Camber (7) and Spencer (5), who he sees all the time because they live just two blocks from him.
He also described his partner Amy Henry as the love of his life.
Outside harness racing Hoerdt said he enjoyed travel and working in his pipe hauling and ATM machine businesses.
He said one of his missions on his ‘bucket list’ was to visit New Zealand one day.
“My brother has been there and absolutely loved it. I will get down there one day for sure. I’ve heard so much about it. I’ll see you then,” Hoerdt said.
Things Hoerdt revealed:
Favourite Horse of all Time – Nealies Smartie.
Favourite Actor – Al Pacino.
Favourite Movie – Scarface.
Favourite Racetrack – Los Alamitos.
Superstitions – Never says “See you in the Winner’s Circle,” as he believes it is bad luck.
Career Goals – Open more off track betting locations.
By Duane RANGER (editor)