Pimlico press box renamed to honor Kelly

April 21, 2013 | WNST Staff

PIMLICO PRESS BOX RENAMED SUNDAY AFTERNOON

 

BALTIMORE, 04-21-13—Before Sunday’s first race, the Pimlico Race Course press box was renamed to include Joe Kelly, who covered horse racing for nearly 70 years prior to his passing in November at the age of 94. The Red Smith-Joe Kelly Press Box will be at full capacity next month for the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes.

 

Kelly began his career at the Baltimore Sun in the 1940s then moved to the Washington Star in 1955 where he spent the next 26 years. After retiring, he became the publicity director for the Maryland Million and was Pimlico Race Course’s historical consultant until his death.

“Nobody spent more time in the Pimlico press box,” said Mike Gathagan, Pimlico’s vice president of communications. “We felt it was important to honor Mr. Kelly, so the next generations of turf writers know what he meant to this place. He was a tremendous resource and positive influence. We just finished our third week of the spring meet and it is weird not to see him in his office or in the chair where he sat while wagering each afternoon.”

On October 30, 1947 Kelly was part of Baltimore’s first live remote television broadcast on WMAR-TV, when he called the fifth and sixth races at Pimlico with his then colleague Jim McKay. He is also the only two-time winner of the Old Hilltop Award for excellence in horse racing coverage, winning in 1979 and 2000.

Twenty-members of the Kelly family, including five of his six children and four of his five grandchildren attended the dedication.

 

“This truly is a great honor for him,” said Kelly’s son Jacques. “He spent 69 years in this press box and adored Pimlico. For him Pimlico was a very personal place. Joe had a fabulous memory and always had stories to tell about it. Just when you thought you heard them all, you heard one more. This is also where my parents courted. Not only did they court here but they also brought all their friends. This is very emotional for me. I hate to say it but it is the truth, more so than the funeral or other honors (since his passing) because this is his home turf.”

 

Smith covered the Preakness Stakes for more than 40 years, first with the New York Herald Tribune and then for the New York Times. In 1976, Smith was one of the initial winners of Pimlico Race Course’s Old Hilltop Award for covering Thoroughbred Racing with excellence and distinction. The Pimlico press box was named in his honor on May 14, 1982, four months after his death.

ORTIZ INJURED IN SUNDAY SPILL

Apprentice rider Yomar Ortiz was injured when he fell from his mount during the stretch run in today’s fifth race at Pimlico. Ortiz was riding Badon when his mount broke down closing in on the finish in the five furlong turf race for $35,000 claimers. Ortiz was on the ground when he was struck by Gator Gone Wild, a trailing horse. The 21-year old was taken to nearby Sinai Hospital for x-rays near the hip and femur areas on his left leg, according to Pimlico medical director Dr. Harry Harris.

 

Ortiz leads the rider standings after three weeks of the spring meeting with 13 trips to the winners’ circle, after capturing the Laurel Park winter meet title earlier this year.

 

Badon suffered a right ankle injury and was humanely euthanized, according to Maryland Racing Commission veterinarian Dr. David Zipf.

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