Mary Kelly, 89, dies

Columbus, OH – Mary Kelly, 89, a longtime standardbred horse owner/operator and a friend to many in the harness horse industry passed away surrounded by her family, on July 9.

In 1963, Ms. Kelly and her husband, Neil, bought ½ interest in two standardbred pacers, Bob Hardy and Kentucky Gal, from Wence and Doris McDonald, and Monterey Farm was born.

In 1967, driver/trainer Gene Vallandingham joined forces with Mary and Neil, and their main business was claiming and racing. Neil was a pilot for United Air Lines, so Mary held down the farm while Neil was flying, doing the books, managing inoculations, swimming horses, and raising their three children. Five years later, in 1971, Monterey Farm set a record, winning 119 races in a single year.

In 1973, Mary and Neil sold their farm in Elgin, Illinois and moved 79 head of horses to California. Mary worked tirelessly on the planning to transport 29 of them on a United Air Lines DC8 cargoliner. Mary and Neil’s standardbred horses raced successfully for many years in California. They also ran a breeding farm, standing Peter Lobel, who was the top standardbred stallion in California for many years, as well as Ray Charles and Sparking Speed.

Mary and Neil wound down their racing barn in the 1990s, as the gambling moved to casinos and the California lottery. As the century closed, Monterey Farm was converted to row crop, which it still is today.

Mary Kelly ran Monterey Farm’s racing business side-by-side with Neil for over 30 years. She was a style icon, always with a smile for everyone in the paddock and throughout the track. Mary will be missed by her many friends in the standardbred racing world.

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