From a Maryland Horse Breeders Association release
Gelo Hall — a man who’s had a front row seat to some of Maryland’s most important racing history as an exercise rider, trainer, jockey agent, and patrol judge — has been named the winner of the 2014 Joe Kelly Unsung Hero Award by Maryland Million, Ltd.
This award honors the memory of Joe Kelly and is presented by the Board of Directors of the Maryland Million Ltd. The Maryland Million Unsung Hero award celebrates important characteristics that are valuable but often unrewarded. With this award we recognize honesty, hard work and humility – qualities which serve as inspiration to others.
Joe Kelly was a close friend of Maryland Million Ltd. founder Jim McKay, and a mentor to writers, horsemen and fans alike. And he loved the horse industry from his early days at the Baltimore Sun.
Howard Gordon Hall Jr., best known as Gelo, is a man who has worn many hats in the Thoroughbred industry. Born in Baltimore in 1927, he attended his first horse race at Timonium Race Track when he was 4 years old. Throughout his youth he spent time at many race tracks with his father, who worked as a jock’s valet, on the Maryland circuit. “It was the Sport of Kings,” recalled this soft-spoken man. “Pimlico was sort of a city attraction for all parts of Baltimore. Racing was sort of an everyday part of our lives in Baltimore City at that time.”
At 14 he was employed by H.L. Straus to break yearlings at Cherry Hill Farm in Reisterstown. From there he followed the horses to Pimlico, and went to work for Frank “Downey” Bonsal. Over time his career has included jobs as an exercise rider, a licensed trainer and a jockey’s agent, and he is a graduate of the Jockey Club School for Racing Officials. His first official’s job was at Arlington Park, where he worked as a patrol judge.
Gelo has been a part of a remarkable amount of Maryland’s Thoroughbred history, and he has been lucky enough to see to some of the best horses and races that this sport has ever produced. He was there at Pimlico in 1938 to witness the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. “He was eye to eye with a champion,” Hall said of underdog Seabiscuit. “The legend of the ages was his heart and his mind. The legend was being written then.” Seabiscuit won this race for the ages, perhaps the most famous race of all-time.
And Gelo’s faith in God has guided him throughout his life. He is a life-long member of St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church. He worked with the Race Track Chaplaincy from its infancy and watched it grow into a strong presence on American tracks. He started with the Race Track Ministry in 1975, and while at Arlington Park he encouraged the Salvation Army to work with the track. He is a man who truly has influenced and guided many people to a better path. After a conversation his parting words are often “May the peace of the Lord be always with you.”
Mr. Hall will be honored this week at the Maryland Million Gala and Auction at the Maryland Club Friday evening, and in a Winner’s Circle ceremony on Jim McKay Maryland Million Day.