Happy ending for a horse no one wanted Kool Krafty captures St. Brendan Stakes

March 01, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

In the glamorous world of horse racing, where big bucks often buy the best horse, fairy tales come true, too.

Margaret Crews, 26, stood dazed in the winner's circle yesterday at Laurel Park after a horse her husband Nelson bought for $1,300 won the $66,275 St. Brendan Stakes, earning the Crews $39,765.

The horse, Kool Krafty, is the only horse they own. Nelson, when he's not training him, drives a dump truck. Five days ago, Margaret gave birth to the couple's first child.

The tiny girl, Helen, nestled in the arms of Margaret's sister outside the winner's circle as Margaret told the endearing story of her husband's purchase of Kool Krafty, a 5-year-old gelding nobody else wanted. Nelson, who lives in Oxford, Pa., bought him last Thanksgiving at Belmont Park.

"I sent Nelson up with some of his friends just to watch the sale, and he was watching the horse run around and nobody was bidding," Margaret said. "So he started bidding, and he bought the horse. He didn't realize he was going to go so cheap."

Nelson, 39, said he thought Kool Krafty, based on past performances in New York, would sell for at least $10,000. Nelson hadn't even looked closely at the horse, figuring he'd be out-bid, anyway. He and his wife assumed something must be wrong with him.

When Nelson led him off the trailer, Margaret said: "Tomorrow morning we'll take the bandages off, and he'll have two big bows [injured tendons], and we'll have to sell him as a riding horse."

But Margaret, her husband's exercise rider, began working Kool Krafty. In fact, six weeks ago -- 7 1/2 months pregnant -- she was riding him to the track at the Folk Training Center in Oxford when the horse spun and threw her. She broke a shoulder, but baby was unharmed.

As for Kool Krafty, he was sound, willing and able. He won his first starts for the Crews at Philadelphia Park. And then, Feb. 8, he won a $27,000 allowance race at Laurel. Yesterday, in his first stakes performance, a 1 1/8 -mile test for older horses, Kool Krafty, directed deftly by Mario Pino, prevailed by a nose in an incredibly close photo finish.

For Nelson, the victory was especially sweet because his mother, Helen Kunkel, trained horses in Maryland until 1973, when she died after suffering a stroke at Timonium. She was 42.

Nelson broke in as a teen-ager under Vincent Moscarelli at Charles Town. He trained for 15 years, but when he finally decided he couldn't make a living at it, he bought a dump truck. Then he bought Kool Krafty.

"He rang me up and said he bought the horse," his wife said, concluding the tale, "and I said, 'You've got to be joking.' You let a man off with the boys for the day, and this is what happens."

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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