“There’s this nice boy next door,” trainer Paul Kelley remembers his mother-in-law, Mary Beninati, telling him a little more than 20 years ago. “He loves the horses. Can’t you give him a job?”
Beninati lived in Mechanicville, New York, next door to Jerry and Patti Brown and their horse-crazy son, Chad, who’d grown up going to the flat races at nearby Saratoga Race Course.
“I asked her, ‘Mary, how old is he?’” Kelley said. “She said, ‘He’s a good kid. He’s about 13.’”
You can hear Kelley’s eyes rolling through the phone as he relates the story. “‘Mary,’ I said, ‘I’m running a stable here.’”
The nice boy next door got a little older, and eventually Mary Beninati’s entreaties — some of which happened across the Thanksgiving dinner table – wore down her son-in-law. Kelley, who trains Standardbreds at a farm not far from Saratoga, relented.
“I remember the first time he walked into the barn and introduced himself,” said Kelley. “He was maybe a junior or senior in high school. He didn’t grow up in a horse family, and he had no background with horses, but it didn’t take me very long to figure out that this kid had a real aptitude for what he was doing.”
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