Remington Welcomes New Handicapper
Kelly O'Hara shares her love of racing with Remington Park fans and bettors.
March 28, 2014
There’s a new face in the saddling paddock this Quarter Horse meet at Remington Park, a handicapper with a colorful history. We had a chance to catch up with retired Thoroughbred jockey, Kelly O’Hara this week. What we discovered was a beautiful lady with an unbridled passion for horse racing and a wealth of expertise.
When you sit down and visit with Kelly O’Hara, it’s evident she’s not from Oklahoma. She was raised in New York City, the Bronx to be exact. When she was 12, O’Hara’s grandfather took her and her sister to Aqueduct to watch Steve Cauthen ride Triple Crown winner, Affirmed. This day changed the course of O'Hara's life forever. It was in this moment this young girls future was clear, she wanted to be a jockey.
“I began riding horses at the age of 10, taking riding lessons and showing hunter jumpers," said O’Hara. “It was after high school that I began my career at the racetrack.”
She has exercised for trainers Jack Van Berg, Johnny Campo, Elliot Burch and Nick Zito, among others. A hot walker, groom, pony-rider and eventually a licensed jockey, Kelly rode from the late 1980s until 1997 when she retired due to injuries.
“I began teaching and training show horses in New York and eventually moved to Oklahoma with my then-husband, Thoroughbred trainer Joe Petalino. He trained for the Gaylord’s, who at the time owned the Lazy E in Guthrie,” said O’Hara. She fell in love with Oklahoma and has remained in the area working at Sorghum Mills Stables in Guthrie. “When Chris Kotulak approached and asked if I would be interested in joining him as a guest handicapper for the 2013 Thoroughbred meet at Remington Park, I jumped at the chance.”
Now approaching the fourth weekend of the Quarter Horse & Mixed Breed season at Remington, Kelly remains steady in her duties as a guest handicapper.
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“I have really enjoyed the Quarter Horse meet," she said. "Oklahoma is the heart of the Quarter Horse world and the involvement of everyone, no matter what chapter of these horse’s lives they have been involved in, impresses me.”
She looks at several factors when handicapping such as past performance, class change, troubled trips and a horse in good form. But maybe most noted by O’Hara are those horses who simply stand out as sheer competitors.
“It’s hard to win every trip, but those individuals who consistently light the board are tough to bet against,” she shared.
An infectious passion for the horse industry in multiple events, Kelly O’Hara is someone to get to know this season at Remington Park. Join OQHRA in giving her a warm Quarter Horse welcome as she is thankful for the opportunity to share her expertise. It is her goal to help everyone appreciate the beauty in the sport of horse racing.
AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, watch the AQHA Racing Newscast and visit www.aqharacing.com.