By Tod Marks
Pennsylvania-based trainer Kathy Neilson recorded her 200th career win on Saturday when Awesome Adrian captured the Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber allowance at the Grand National Races in Butler, Md.
Kathy, an accomplished jockey who cut her training teeth working for Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard from 1991 to 1997, saddled several horses on her own in 1991 and then again in 1996, and notched her first victory when her stable began to grow in 1997. That first winner came at Fair Hill, where she saddled Double Dater — a horse she also owned — in a timber allowance. Double Dater gave Kathy her first stakes score, too, in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup in the fall of that year.
It goes without saying that the Neilson/Stewart family has a rich family legacy in equine sports dating back to the late 1800s, and Kathy herself has been in the top 10 National Steeplechase Association trainers for 15 years.
During her career, the NSA stalwart has trained both flat runners and jumpers, conditioning stakes winners over timber as well as hurdles. Her top horses include multiple stakes winner Young Dubliner, with whom she won the Maryland Hunt Cup, as well as Grade 1 winner Trebizond, Super Saturday, Mulahen, Raise A Storm, River Bed, Brinton Bridge, and Toughkenamon, winner of the Temple Gwathmey.
Reflecting on her 200th win, Neilson said the milestone wasn’t even on her radar, and she only began thinking about it when daughter Skylar McKenna mentioned it.
“I am always grateful to win,” Neilson said. “The older I get, the more I cherish the people and horses that are along for the ride. Winning the Maryland Hunt Cup in 2002 was surreal. I was pregnant with Skylar so it was particularly memorable! (Longshot) Mr. Perkolater winning in Saratoga was so unexpected it was really fun. And Skylar winning her first sanctioned race at Shawan Downs was memorable indeed. I was surprised.”