All American: Houdini's Magic

Houdini continues the magic created by his Oklahoma breeder.

By Andrea Caudill
Q-Racing Journal
August 28, 2013


Houdini. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

Houdini is looking to pull yet another rabbit out of his hat on Labor Day, when he enters the $2.6 million All American Futurity (G1) with the hopes to conjure one of the sport’s biggest prizes.

The Valiant Hero gelding races for the Ellen Kennedy Living Trust of Owasso, Oklahoma, which is managed by Ellen’s son, Allen. The brown gelding is trained by Luis Villafranco and is only a nose from being undefeated in five career starts. His lone loss came to Coronado Cartel in the $720,000 Remington Park Oklahoma-Bred Futurity (R). He has earned $150,474.

Houdini represents well the legacy of his breeder, who died in 2010.

Ellen just loved horses. It was a passion unique in her family when she was growing up, but one that lasted a lifetime. She loved all horses, and competed with palominos and Appaloosas before settling in American Quarter Horses. She bred American Quarter Horses for more than 40 years.

“She didn’t know why she had such a love for horses,” Allen said. “She just really loved them.”

Ellen registered her first American Quarter Horse foal in 1963, a Vandy Leo mare named Vandy Goleo. She got involved in racing through the help of trainer and friend Carmen Howell. Runners she bred accumulated earnings of more than $3.8 million and include such standouts as Heza Ramblin Man ($750,907), Rakin In The Cash ($242,707), Little Bit Of Ah Ha ($315,699), Spanish Boot ($128,208), Bueno Misquito ($145,392), Kisses Anywhere ($104,764) and Photo Smart ($215,685).

“She wasn’t interested in the betting (or the money),” Allen said. “She just loved the horse part, the breeding and how they ran. She liked to raise her own.”

Howell bred Kennedy’s mare Pure Oklahoma, a 1994 daughter of Takin On The Cash who won the Shebester Futurity (G3) and was a Grade 1 finalist with career earnings of $36,758.

“She was crazy – especially in the saddling paddock,” Allen remembered of the mare’s racing career. “She’d run around, and (trainer) Rodney (Reed) would just hang on to her. She’s become a real good broodmare around here.”

She has become a real good broodmare, indeed. All 10 of her starters are winners, lead by Restricted Grade 1 winner Adios My Amigos ($232,080) and graded stakes winner Oklahoma Bandido ($162,609).

Ellen died at the age of 92 after a short battle with cancer. Allen has taken over managing his mother’s business and legacy in the horse industry. He has gotten assistance and advice from many friends in the industry as he became more hands-on with the horses and the intricacies of running a ranch. He keeps the broodmares and raises the youngsters, and races the horses in his mother’s name.

“I wanted Mom to get the credit,” Allen said.

Houdini was foaled in 2011.

“He was really mean, so I stayed away from him,” Allen says with a laugh. “I had a guy named Ralph Williams who got him pretty well broke. When Luis got him, I think he had a lot of jockeys on him, he was just a handful. Luis had to cut him finally. I don’t think Luis knew he’d be that good.”

The horse’s name – which was miraculously free in AQHA’s database – is an appropriate one.

“I named him Houdini because he could open gates – if they don’t have a lock or snap on them, he’ll get them open,” Allen said. “Luis called me up one day and said ‘Now I know why you called him Houdini!’ – apparently he got out of his stall and was out in the loafing shed.”

Houdini was a $50,000 supplement to the All American trials, and ran in the very first trial on the first day, leading up to a nail-biting day for his owner.

“I found out he was running in the first trial, I thought ‘Oh my gosh!’” Allen said. “He ran beautiful, did nice. … I turned the TV off, I couldn’t watch (all day). I watched the last few races, and I couldn’t believe his time held up. I guess that’s the whole deal – I still can’t believe it!”

And now it’s time for a little bit of magic on race day.  

“Mom would be so proud,” Allen said. “I kinda feel like she’s still around, in spirit. I know she’d be so happy.”

The All American Derby and Futurity are September 1-2. Extended coverage of the All American weekend is provided by the Q-Racing Journal. Read the digital Q-Racing Journal at If you cannot attend the races live, watch them on Q-Racing Video at