Inaugural Joe Kelly Unsung Hero Award to Holly Robinson

Originally published in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine, December 2013

The Joe Kelly Unsung Hero Award honors someone who worked tirelessly for the good of Maryland racing. Kelly was a journalist and a historian without peer, a mentor for some, a role model for many, an indispensable part of the sport’s fabric for all.

Longtime Maryland trainer Catherine “Holly” Robinson, the award’s first recipient, falls under the same description. She’s been an assistant trainer, a trainer, a volunteer, a smiling face, a surrogate parent, a friend to man, woman, child, dog, horse on farms and backstretches around the state.

A nomination letter from jockey Rosie Napravnik said it best:

To some she is a horse trainer. To others she is just another woman on the racetrack trying to act tough. But to me and many others, Holly has certainly been a hero!

When it was arranged that I was to live at Holly’s house while working a summer job at the racetrack for Dickie Small, honestly I was dreading it. I didn’t want anybody thinking they could tell me what to do or when to do it. But nobody ever did that on Far Out Lane, where Holly is known to house various delinquents, orphans, and LOTS of dogs!

Holly became a best friend to me when I was 16 years old. She told me how it was only when I needed to hear it and the rest of the time she just helped me figure it out on my own. “It” being life. So she stood by me when “it” was difficult and supported me through all of my success, professionally and personally.

Holly was not only generous enough to put a roof over my head for a small amount of board, which she was opposed to – but my father paid to her – which she handed over to me every month, she opened her heart to me as a mother, a mentor, and a friend.

I have never known a person to be so generous, caring, supporting, and loving just because it is a good thing to do. And she does it all with a sense of humor and humility. If she can help, she does. There never seems to be a concern of her convenience. She selflessly does any and everything she can for somebody in need. Holly never, ever asks or wants to be credited for any of her efforts. She enjoys the reward of success stories and happy endings.

There is no way for me to thank Holly enough for the things she has done for me and the things she has taught me. I feel like I am a better person than I would have been without having Holly in my life. So there is no way to thank her other than to strive for my own success. I am so happy that Holly is being honored as an unsung hero because that is exactly what she is!