Day At The Track

Who exactly is Balmoral Park's Tom Kelley?

10:34 PM 10 Dec 2011 NZDT
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Tom Kelley with his wife Chris Tom Kelley with Rachel McLaughlin Tom Kelley with his wife Chris Tom Kelley with wife Chris Tom Kelley Tom Kelley and beautiful friends Tom Kelley with his wife Christine Tom Kelley
Tom Kelley with his wife Chris - And champion jockey, Pat Valenzuela
Tom Kelley with Rachel McLaughlin - And Joe Kristufek on Ladies Day at Hoosier Park
Tom Kelley with his wife Chris - And Rachel McLaughlin
Tom Kelley with wife Chris - Kimberley Rinker, and Michael Antoniades
Tom Kelley - 25 years at the track and still going strong
Tom Kelley and beautiful friends - At Balmoral Park
Tom Kelley with his wife Christine
Tom Kelley - Publicist, judge, steward, announcer . . .
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When Tom Kelley frequented harness racing meetings in Illinois as a teenager back in the late 1970s and early 1980s he never envisaged in December 2011 he would be celebrating a quarter of a century's employment with Balmoral Park.

“I used to hang out with a couple of guys who were really into racing. They had their driver’s license and I was too young to get one so I used to travel to tracks like Sportsman’s Park, Hawthorne, and Balmoral Park with them.

“Sportsman’s Park sadly closed down in the mid-1990s and it was during my Thornwood High School years when I started getting interested in racing,” Kelley told Harnesslink.

Today 47-year-old writes for Harnesslink in his capacity as both publicity director at Balmoral and Maywood Parks. He’s also a steward, a judge and back-up announcer at both tracks.

"Who would have thought that going to the track as a kid would have led to my career today? I never had any aspirations of going to College because although I did quite well and my grades were good, I just wasn't a big fan of school!

“It was just a necessary part of being able to play golf, ice hockey and baseball in high school. Once a sports fanatic always a sports nut,” Chicago born and raised Kelley said.

“I just loved those summer nights at the track – up close and personal with the drivers and watching the trainer’s gear their horses up. The purses were almost as good back then as what they are today. We badly need the slots here today,” he added.

In 1985 Kelley started working for Sports Phone 976 – a sports and racing company that provided live and instant sports, racing and lotteries from the respective venues throughout the United States.

“We had an office in the John Hancock building in Chicago and then we would have reporters out in the field phoning back live results. The internet wasn’t around back then but it was the same concept – live and instant scores,” Kelley said.

He actually met his wife Christine, a former flight attendant, while covering a White Sox baseball game in Chicago in 1984. They have no children.

Kelley got his foot in the Balmoral park door while covering a meeting in 1986. He was there working for the sports company and offered to proof read the work of the then publicity director, Jim Hannon.

“I asked them for a job after a while and was employed as an assistant to the publicity director. I also had my own handicapping column called ‘Kelley’s Korner.’ That was covering thoroughbred racing at the time,” Kelley said.

As time progressed Kelley became interested in both stewarding and judging. He carried out these duties at both Balmoral and Maywood Parks and also for the last six years that the Hawthorne track was open.

In the late 1990s he took over as publicity director at Balmoral and Maywood. His experience as an announcer at Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana County Fairs also got him the back-up announcing job at those two tracks.

Drivers and trainers soon became used to Kelley wearing several racing hats.

“They horsemen have been great. One night I might be fining or disqualifying them and then another night I might be sitting down with them for an interview for a story.

“They have been great and realise the jobs I do. They have always had a good understanding of who I am and what I do. And it goes both ways really. I have learnt a lot about racing with all the jobs I do. I really enjoy them all,” Tinley Park-based Kelley said.

Outside of racing Kelley said he still lived for sport.

“If you came to my house the chances of racing or sports being on the TV are about 90 per cent. I remember when I was young my teachers would give me sports books to read, just so I would read.

“Not many other books interested me,” Kelley said.

He is a big fan of Chicago sport – namely the Chicago Bears and Chicago Black Hawks.

“I’ve played hockey for 20 years and still love it. But I think my favorite team growing up was the Washington Red Skins football team,” Kelley said.

By Duane RANGER (editor)












(1) The feature event at Balmoral Park each year is the American national. Here 3-year-old pacer Betterthancheddar wins the 2011 version of the 3yo Pace:

(2) Tom Kelley has always been a big fan of the Washington Red Skins football team:

(3) Tom Kelley met his wife Christine while covering a Chicago White Sox baseball game.

(4) Tom Kelley is a true-blue Chicago born, raised and educated American:

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