Harness racing is all Kelly Case Ingraham dreamed of doing

by Victoria Howard

Born and raised in Lewiston, ME, Kelly Case Ingraham is no stranger to the sport of harness racing. She is a second generation horseperson who comes from a renowned harness racing family.

Daughter of trainer/driver Walter Case, Sr., Kelly decided to follow her father’s path early on.

Harness racing and standardbred horses became a part of Kelly’s life when she was a small child and remains so today as she works alongside her husband, horseman David Ingraham.

After Kelly married David and gave birth to two children — Dustin Tyler, 35, and Kelsie, 27 — her family became her No. 1 priority. When the kids were old enough Kelly began taking them to the barn with her and they grew up around the horses as she had.

Kelly’s dad got her started in the business.

“My brothers and I grew up at Lewiston Raceway in Maine for my father had a stable there,” Kelly said. “We looked up to and wanted to be just like him; a trainer and a driver. I started going to the barn at age 15 and it wasn’t long after that I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

“I began working for horseman, Harold Ralph, and I started driving with my father after my brother went to Monticello. Soon thereafter I started my own stable and began getting catch drives.”

At 16, Kelly met her future husband.

“We have been together now for 37 years and work every day side by side,” she said. “I want to think we make a great team, both on the track and off.”

Kelly has driven at various racetracks in Canada and the United States. In 2012 she won the Mildred Williams International Ladies Driving Championship at Pocono Down, driving Sleigh Belle to a tight victory in the first race of the Williams series.

“That same year I also won the Sweetheart Pace at Pompano Park with 9-year-old mare, Indianridge Sophia, going wire-to-wire,” she said. “It was an upset at 6-1.”

Kelly may not be as renowned as some of the other female drivers in the sport, but she has certainly made an impact.

During her career she’s had 6,120 wins, 633 seconds, 942 thirds, and earned $3,883,827.

An accomplishment to be proud of indeed.

Through the decades Kelly has driven for a lot of trainers. Who do you most respect and why?

“I look up to a lot of trainers, but I am forever thankful to the ones who had faith in me and gave me drives, such as: Jerry Smith, Elmer Ballard, Greg Libby and Evert Radcliff, all who have sadly passed, but will never be forgotten,” Kelly said. “As far as who I think has made an impact on the sport, there are so many great horsemen and each and every one needs a shout of thanks and respect.”

The team of David and Kelly made Pompano Park in South Florida their second home up until the devastation and heartache of the tracks demise.

“Some of my best memories and lifelong friends were made at Pompano Park,” Kelly said. “I will miss racing there so much, like so many other people who called Pompano Park their winter home. Sadly, the land was more valuable than the horsemen were. So many horsemen and their families lost their livelihood and pretty much their life when Pompano closed.”

Today David and Kelly stable in Greene, ME, in the summer, and Sunshine Meadows in Florida, in the winter.

“Presently we have 6 horses in our stable and a broodmare and colt we keep in Massachusetts,” she said.

When it comes to her fastest and favorite horse, Kelly has multiples that fit the bill.

‘The fastest horse(s) was Camachine and Rocks A Patriot,” she said. “My favorites are Nifty Christy, Trusty Star and How Now Dow.”

Kelly said she doesn’t worry when her husband is driving horses, because he is good at what he does.

“David has over 53,000 drives so he knows how to be as safe as you can out there,” Kelly said. “You never know what is going to happen in a race and sometimes you have a split second to make a decision.

“There have been a few drivers that have lost their life while driving in a race, but it’s what we do and know the possible danger.”

The apples didn’t fall far from the tree, as both of Kelly’s children followed her and David into the business.

“Our son, Dustin, owns and ships horses, and our daughter, Kelsie, who grooms and owns harness horses, have both been in the business their entire lives,” she said.

Although our sport has changed much over the years, there’s nothing else that Kelly would want to be doing.

“I am afraid that our sport is not getting the positive coverage it should,” Kelly said. “There are so many hard-working dedicated horsemen who unfortunately have lost their livelihood due to so many of our harness tracks closing.

“Although our sport has declined since my father was in it years ago, harness racing is still one of the most exciting sports today. I am proud of what I have accomplished in my lifetime and career and proud to have grown up in Lewistown, ME.”

Note: With the unthinkable and heartbreaking news about the fire at Tioga, our harness family has really stepped up to help those who were the victims. I’m so touched that there are so many horsepeople who have helped (in any way they could) to get these people back on their feet. There is nothing worse than losing one of your ‘kids’ that horrific way.

As a licensed Doctor in Grief Counseling, if anyone needs help in coping or just wants to talk about it, I will be honored to help in your journey to recovery.

I also lost one of my horses in a fire once, so I do know how you feel. Just private message me.