Day At The Track

Cal Expo trot pays tribute to Keith Willey

03:50 AM 08 Apr 2016 NZST
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Keith Willey, harness racing
Keith Willey Memorial Trot is Saturday at Cal Expo
Crystal View Photo

Saturday night's Keith Willey Memorial Trot is named for the popular horseman who passed away last September at the age of 81 following a three-month battle with cancer.

Willey resided in Sacramento County for 43 years, 26 of which were spent in Herald. He served as a full-time military officer in the California National Guard from 1953 until his retirement in 1992, reaching the rank of Colonel.

He also served as air defense commander and comptroller with the California State Military Department.

One of his true loves was harness racing and he was a driver, trainer, owner and breeder while an extremely popular member of the fraternity. He was recalled as "A self-taught computer guru, photographer, pilot, lover of old country music, a Mr. Fix-it and a cowboy at heart who liked challenges."

Keith was survived by his wife Deborah and son Kenneth, plus numerous dogs, cats and horses.

Nathalie Tremblay said, "Keith was a great friend and business partner for both me and my dad Nicol. We used to love to go his farm in the summer and train over his half-mile track.

"Keith loved every animal that was born and raised on his farm, and there was always a place for them."

As far as performers go, Nathalie remembers a special place in Willey's heart for the trotter KD Justice. "Both Keith and my dad won with him. I also remember a time when KD Justice broke Keith's leg, and he didn't even realize it at the time!"

Jim Perez said, "Keith always supported California harness racing. He was on the Sire Stakes board of directors for many years and always loved his Cal-breds. He was a big part of the Sire Stakes program and is truly missed."

Keith Willey Memorial, Sire Stakes headline

The Keith Willey Memorial Trot featuring Flameon and a pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacers are the main events on Saturday night's program at Cal Expo.

There will be 11 races on tap with first post set for 6:15 p.m. The Keith Willey Trot will go as the fourth race, while the Sire Stakes for pacing colts occupies the sixth-race slot and the pacing fillies stakes will be a non-betting event prior to the regular program.

In the two Sire Stakes, owner/breeders Wayne and Rod Knittel and trainer Bob Johnson will look to continue their domination with homebreds Allmyx'sliveintexas and Moonstone Beach and Mooney Svendsen will once again guide both performers.

Allmyx'sliveintexas is a son of Hi Ho Silverheel's out of the Distinguishedbarn mare Annie Get Your Gun who has captured five of his nine starts, including the opening leg of the Lonnie Beck Series and all four Sire Stakes decided for the sophomore pacing colts.

In the most recent big-money clash for this group two weeks, Svendsen sent the 1-5 favorite right to the front and he widened in the stretch, reporting home with seven lengths to spare while missing his lifetime mark by two ticks with the 1:55 flat final clocking.

Moonstone Beach has likewise dominated the 3-year-old pacing fillies for the Knittel/Johnson/Svendsen combination. She is by Crisis Situation out of the Beach Towel mare Bj's Beach Fire and has prevailed in five of her seven outings, with four of those scores resulting in stakes trophies.

By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

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