“Trottin’ Tom” Kelley has provided Chicagoland with insight into the sport of harness racing for the past 25 years through handicapping, journalism, and other essential racing tools. With the start of the 2011 Standardbred season, he will expand his expertise to Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, providing Indiana racing fans with handicapping selections on the Website as well as the official racing program.
A native of Chicago, Kelley stumbled on harness racing at the age of 14. With a slightly older friend that could drive, the duo began attending races at Sportsman’s Park and soon developed an interest in picking winners. Kelley was mesmerized by the sport and tried to soak up as much information as he could on every trip.
“In those days, you had to get to Sportsman’s Park an hour early just to get a parking spot in the lot,” said Kelley. “And, the open paddock was great. You could walk down and talk with the drivers and ask questions. Darryl Busse was always willing to come up to the front and answer questions and tell you about racing. There were a lot of great horses and drivers that would come in and out. I even remember watching Stan Bayless come in and drive. Watching those great horses roll past you was the greatest rush in the world. And, trying to pick winners really helped pique my interest in the sport.”
Kelley’s curiosity soon landed him in a position with Sports Phone, recording and reporting scores for all sorts of activities from wrestling to racing. He learned the terminology and got his first glimpse into the inner workings of a racetrack through Jim Hannon at Balmoral Park. Eventually, he created Kelley’s Korner for the racing program and his duties expanded into his current position as director of publicity for Balmoral Park.
Kelley’s handicapping soon caught on with racing fans and became a popular tool for horseplayers in Chicago. He now provides the best possible plays each night and offers insight through his comments to parlays and key plays. With his astute knowledge of racing in the Midwest, Kelley’s handicapping at Hoosier Park will be a smooth transition.
"I think it’s very important for the public to know the reason why a horse got beat,” said Kelley. “There are so many different things that go into it. I like to look for a horse that is either coming into form or is in form. I’m not a big believer in choosing a horse just because it’s dropping in class. That’s not always the answer. So many people think they can expect a complete improved effort just off a drop to a lower level. I’d much rather find a horse that has had troubled trips. I’m a big 'trip' handicapper. The trips horses go have a lot to do with how they race in their next start.”
Kelley is very attentive to the ins and outs of racing. He currently provides the morning line for Balmoral Park, and was ranked first among all North American harness tracks last year for accuracy, sporting a rating of .730.
“Trottin’ Tom” joins in-house Wagering 101 Handicapper Stan Bayless to provide racing fans with additional options this year. Look for the latest in handicapping assistance for both parties on-line and in the racing program during the 18th season of Standardbred racing at Hoosier Park. (Hoosier Park)