Standardbreds a key part of trainer Kaylee Martin’s life dance

by Chris Lomon

There are certain sounds that will always be music to owner/trainer Kaylee Martin’s ears.

When she talks of being fourth generation, the 19-year-old from Grove City, PA, isn’t speaking of just one life’s calling.

In this instance, it happens to be a pair of careers that happily keep her on her toes.

“Outside of my racing life, I teach dance,” said Martin. “I started doing dance when I was eight, and now I get to teach it. The kids are anywhere from two to 19, and I go two days a week, sometimes more. It’s a competition school, the Dotty McGill School of Dance. So, we teach competitive dance, and we go to various competitions throughout the state. I teach tap, ballet, jazz, acro, lyrical – a little bit of everything.

“With racing, it started with my great-grandfather, who worked with ponies. My grandfather is part of the industry, and my mom is too. I’ve been basically doing it my whole life. I started when I could walk, basically. I felt that instant bond with the horses.”

Does she see any connections between teaching dance and her standardbred life?

“It would be the sound. With the horses, when they are trotting or pacing, and in certain forms of dance, you hear similar sounds. And I really like that. Whenever I’m doing one of those things, it reminds me of the other.”

As for her racetrack life, Martin, in just her second year of training, has fared well, going 8-3-9 from 25 starts in her rookie season.

She recorded her first career pari-mutuel win with Heytherwillie on Dec. 9, 2021, at The Meadows. Martin, who had already won several races in the Pennsylvania Fairs Circuit, co-owns the 3-year-old son of Possess The Will—Heythergeorgiegirl with Jodi Martin and Fred Uber Jr.

“That was a great moment. You always hope that day will come and when it does, it’s even better than you imagined.”

Although it’s early on in her career, two horses in particular have already had a profound impact on her life.

“San Zambello really taught me a lot and helped me so much,” said Martin, of the hard-knocking trotting son of San Pellegrino, who went 12-10-10 from 91 career starts, with his final victory coming on Nov. 20, 2012, at Northfield.

Then there is Broadway Kabam.

Martin and the trotting daughter of Broadway Hall shared a deep affection for one another.

“We were very much like one another in so many ways and we just connected.”

Is that a compliment to the horse?

“Well, sometimes,” Martin said with a big laugh. “She could be playful at times, and then at other times she wasn’t. She didn’t like it when people came up to her stall door. She would flare her ears back. But she was the best horse to work around.”

Unfortunately, the brown mare, who posted a mark of 14-13-8 from 78 starts, accompanied by $108,747 in purse earnings, recently passed away.

The loss of her beloved trotter still stings.

“It’s just hard to talk about still,” said Martin. “She died three days before her seventh birthday. She was the one I learned almost everything with and the one that meant the most to me. I could do anything with her but not everyone could. She was my world. The day she passed away I got the call that she was down, so I went and I feel she waited for me to get there. When I got to the barn she nickered and tried to stand up but couldn’t, so I went and sat beside her. She picked her head up and laid it in my lap and took her final breath with me holding her.”

In that moment and to this day, Martin is reminded of advice she received before she started her horse racing career.

“Never give up on a horse and always try your best. That’s what I’ll always do.”

Putting in long hours at the racetrack and in the barn never brings her down.

Although she’s listed as an owner and trainer, Martin also has several other roles.

Not that she sees it as a negative.

“I’m jogging and cleaning stalls, water buckets and all of it. When I’m jogging a horse, I find it very relaxing. It’s very peaceful when you are out there, and any stresses you have seem to be forgotten. It’s just all about being with the horses and meeting new people. I love being around the horses every day and the chance to meet so many great people, that’s also something I really enjoy too.”

In just her second year of training, Martin has already set out a foundation for what she would like to achieve, both short-term and beyond.

This year, the objective is to get the young horses, all trotters, under her tutelage, up to speed as the racing season heats up.

Beyond that, Martin has hopes of building something special for the future.

“Short-term, it would be getting our 2-year-olds racing. In the long-term, I’d like to get a barn for myself. Right now, we’re stabled at the Stoneboro Fair, and I’d like to get a place for myself, put a track there, and hopefully get more horses.”

While educating trotters can be, at times, frustrating, Martin isn’t daunted by the hurdles that can come with the gait.

Instead, she sees it as a welcome challenge, something she has always thrived upon.

“I like the challenge with the trotters. Any challenge, I’ll accept it.”

Which is exactly what Martin somehow manages to conquer every week, dividing her time and energy into dual careers, both of which keep her engaged and energized despite the demands and little time for outside interests.

After all, when you’re a fourth-generation dancer and horseperson, keeping things running smoothly is the top priority.

“It can be hectic, and it can be busy, but when you love what you do, that makes all the difference in the world. I look forward to every chance I get to do both.”