Derby Day came early for trainer Forrest Kaelin and his wife of 62 years, Betty.
The Kaelins, who have long been among the most beloved horse people on the Tampa Bay Downs backside, won today's fifth race with their 3-year-old filly My Monkey, who was bred by Betty Kaelin and the couple's granddaughter, Brittany King.
Betty Kaelin owns My Monkey and Forrest Kaelin, who is 83, trains her. They first arrived at the Oldsmar oval in 1956 when the track was known as Sunshine Park and he was a jockey.
My Monkey is named for another granddaughter, Ashley King, who was killed six years ago in Louisiana at age 32.
“She was the first one to start calling me 'Monkey,' ” Betty Kaelin explained, “and everybody else started doing it after that.
“I know Ashley is up there smiling right now. For this filly to win today is like a million dollars. It's like winning the Kentucky Derby for us.”
The victory in the $8,000 claiming event was the first for My Monkey in five tries. The daughter of Greatness-Ashleys Angel Eyes, by Alluvial, paid $18 to win after completing the 7 furlongs in 1:26.89. It was the second of three consecutive victories on the card for her jockey, Samy Camacho.
Ashleys Angel Eyes won one of two starts for the Kaelins.
“She (My Monkey) felt good warming up and she broke well,” Camacho said. “When (runner-up) Jenna Dawn moved up, I put my horse behind her, and when it came time for my filly to run, I didn't have to hit her. I thank the Kaelins for putting me on her and I'm very happy to win for them.”
Forrest Kaelin rode 89 winners in 48 days at Wheeling Downs in West Virginia when he was 18, including six in a row on a single card. A serious spill put him out of action for almost a year, and it wasn't long before Betty convinced him to switch to training.
He has sent out almost 1,600 winners as a conditioner and has four graded-stakes victories, in addition to winning the 1982 and 1983 editions of the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs with Vodika Collins before it was a graded race.
Kaelin saddled Crimson Classic for an 11th-place finish in the 1997 Kentucky Derby.
More recently, Kaelin trained the gelding Good Lord, a multiple-stakes winner who set a stakes and track record (the latter since lowered) of 1:22.03 in winning the 7-furlong Super Stakes here in 2013.
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