Alana and Daniel Kelly with Nama Dude (Image: Racing Photos)
It's all about family for Daniel Kelly.
The trainer has a family operation based out of Ballarat, with daughter and apprentice Alana playing a big part in its day-to-day running.
The Kellys will have an extra-special reason to celebrate on Saturday when they combine for their first Flemington runner together with homebred Nama Dude to contest the $120,000 G.H. Mumm Mahogany Challenge Final (2500m).
While Daniel may not get the time to fully soak up just what having his daughter ride for him in the city means on Saturday, he knows it will be a special moment nonetheless, especially during the tough COVID-19 times.
"It's just good having anyone in the family helping me. At the end of the day she (Alana) comes and helps me at work, we do the hard yards together, we bred these horses all together," Daniel Kelly said.
"I get a bit of a tear to the eye when she rides a winner, which is really good because there's that much hard work and early mornings that go into it. If you do get a result, it's only because of that.
"I will for sure (soak up Saturday), but the moral to the story is that you don't get time to enjoy it because you're back home feeding horses, it just doesn't stop and it's seven days a week for me and seven days a week for her.
"It's a hard slog. And just lately, the pubs have been shut so you can't even go and have a meal when you've trained a winner.
"But we try to enjoy it. And the moral to the story is if he goes well on Saturday then it helps pay bills and helps us catch up a little bit."
The city ride is a fine reward for the younger Kelly, who her dad says deserves more opportunities than what she currently gets.
He credits her for turning around the form of Nama Dude, who enters Saturday's staying test on the back of a win and a fifth at his past two starts.
"She's a good rider, she just needs to be given a go," Kelly said.
"Every time, if a horse is going well, then normally it wins. That big horse that won at Ballarat, Nama Dude, a senior was riding it and the horse was going all right.
"Alana rides the horse's work and she said he's not a horse you want to be holding up so we chose to roll forward at Ballarat and that's what won us the race."
Alana last rode for her father in town in November when the team took Sky Royale to The Valley on a Friday night.
Kelly owns Nama Dude's dam Abassi Queen, and an interesting set of circumstances led him to sire Rebel Raider.
"I bought the share off a friend. His mare died, so he had the service fee to Rebel Raider," he said.
"So I just bought the service fee off him for $3000. I was just in the right place and the right time.
"I put the stallion over my mare and ended up with that horse."
Drawn in barrier three on Saturday, Kelly expects Nama Dude to roll along in front and give plenty of cheek at $26.
"I'm querying whether I've got him forward enough for the run. But I would say that he's had enough runs along the way to say that he's ready," Kelly said.
"He went 2400m evens this morning and ran home the last furlong in 12 and he could have gone further.
"I would say if we get a bit of rain then he will be in that race up to his neck."