Ownership Profile - Tom Kilkelly
Tom Kilkelly’s ownership journey has been one of loyalty and friendship, but also more recently it’s had a touch of serendipity.
Because when Tom Kilkelly purchased U May Cullect as a weanling in Auckland he had absolutely no inclination of the rollercoaster of emotions he was about to climb aboard.
“He was no stunner,” Tom admits. “He was a nice horse, by an average sire and the good thing about it is that anyone could have got him, and had the fun we have had.”
“You don’t have to have a huge amount of money to get a horse like him; you just have to have faith.”
It was that faith and loyalty that has seen Tom involved in harness racing for 55 years and still loving the game.
“As a 13-year-old I got a job in a harness racing stables in Greymouth, helping out before and after school and on the weekends and holidays,” Tom said. “I got the princely sum of 10 shillings a week.”
A little later in life Tom moved to Invercargill where he and a friend leased a trotter to race. And although that horse didn’t win, they enjoyed being a part of the ownership experience.
It would be following meeting with the late Brian Swain in 1988 that saw Tom lease a horse named Man Of The Match, who went on to win three races and was then sold to American buyers.
“I thought after that the game was easy, I thoroughly enjoyed myself,” explained Tom.
And even prior to U May Cullect arriving on the scene Tom experienced some big thrills whilst training and owning his own team of horses.
“The biggest highlight for me (pre U May Cullect) would be the day I owned and co-trained four winners with Tracee Faithful on Regent Race Day,” said Tom.
“I’ve had some nice horses over the years like Ask McArdle (5 wins), Western Arden (13 wins) and Guns N Roses (9 wins), however the thrill of a lifetime is obviously having a horse like Carlos (U May Cullect).”
“Everyone in this game dreams of owning one like him, and fortunately for us the dream has come true. Sadly we won’t be at the Cup this year, but look out in 2020,” Tom laughs.
But with having a horse like U May Cullect does come the unique and immense pressure of public expectation.
“I don’t usually get too nervous on raceday unless Carlos is racing, as there is so much expected of him. The pressure of owning him has been ok, I was just disappointed for all of his followers when he sustained his latest injury,” said Tom.
“I was in Japan working and I got a text from Kirstin (Barclay) that just said “ring me” and I knew something was wrong. But as I say, he will be back.”
The journey they endeavored on with U May Cullect has also changed the way they look at other horses, and they now have another potential comeback story in the wings.
“We have one horse called Ask Me Major, who is a half to Ask McArdle, and he had three starts for a win and two fourths before he did a tendon. We gave him away to trekking stable, but after what has happened with Carlos we decided to get him back and give him another go,” Tom explained.
“We gave the guy at the trekking stable a ten percent share, and the horse is now a nine-year-old but is only a few weeks away from the workouts. It could be an amazing story if he was able to come back and win!”
Tom has had success as an owner in both New Zealand and Australia, placing horses with Adam Kelly in Melbourne once he feels they have reached their mark here.
But his partnership with Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis has really seen things flourish over the last couple of years.
“I have a great relationship with both Tank and Kirstin. I think they complement each other well with their own set of different skills. Kirstin is like family to Julie and I,” Tom said.
“The best part about being an owner and not a trainer now is not having to get out of bed in the middle of a rough winter’s morning and freeze in the cart,” Tom laughed.
“But of course the thrill of winning a race is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced. I don’t get into too much of the celebrating, but I do like to head home with Julie and have two or three cold ones and watch the replay.”
“I would highly recommend anyone to get involved in this game, obviously syndicates are the best way to get started as you get to meet new people and still experience the thrill of owning or leasing a horse.”
Tom is keen to help others on their own ownership journey as well.
“We have ten mares in foal this year as well as six yearlings on the ground. We won’t be able to race them all, so hopefully we can encourage some new people into the game in years to come.”
For more information on harness racing ownership and how you can get involved, please email Jess Smith - HRNZ Communication and Ownership Co-Ordinator, [email protected]