Edward Ignatius "E.I." Kelly, one of the more popular trainers ever on the New York circuit, died Sept. 2 at his home in Brooksville, Fla. Mr. Kelly had turned 83 on July 30.Known as much for his sense of humor and story-telling ability as he was for his skill as a horseman, Kelly was a native of Baltimore, Md. and followed his older brother, Hall of Fame trainer Tommy "T.J." Kelly, into racing. The Kelly brothers began working for trainer J.W.Y. Martin in the mid-1930s. "E.I." later worked as foreman for Circle M Ranch in Kentucky in 1937, then served in a tank outfit in Europe in World War II. After he was discharged, he returned to Circle M Ranch and shortly thereafter, he got his trainer's license and saddled his first winner, Ardent Miss, in 1945.In 1949, Mr. Kelly began training for Harry Isaac's Brookfield Farm and the relationship continued until Isaac's death in 1990. It was a successful partnership and Kelly developed all of Isaac's "I" horses: I Enclose, I'm in Time, I'm Sky High, In From Dixie, In True Form, I Rejoice, I Speedup and Is Your Pleasure. The big "I" horse, however, was Intentionally, the champion sprinter of 1959.
After his retirement to Brooksville, about an hour north of Tampa, Fla. in the early 1990s, he was still a presence. He was part owner of Lucky Coin, who won seven of nine starts for trainer Richard Nieminski, including the Kelso Handicap, in 1997. One of his losses was a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) that year.Among Mr. Kelly's survivors are his wife, Margaret, his sons former trainer Mike Kelly, who is now an agent for jockey Javier Castellano and former trainer Eddie, Jr.; his daughter, Colleen; his brothers, "TJ" and John; and several nieces and nephews, including trainer Pat Kelly; and former trainer Tim Kelly, who now works for the New York Racing Association. His sister, Mary, passed away several years ago. Funeral arrangements are pending.