55 years and going strong
Horse racing has been a Wessels family affair
By Dan Johnson
Regina Wessels has gotten the last laugh on her thirdgrade class.One day the students had to tell their classmates whatthey wanted to do as adults."The whole class stood up and said what you were goingto be when you grew up," Wessels said. "I said I wasgoing to be a horse trainer and everybody laughed at me:'What do you mean?'"Sixty years later, Wessels is still doing what shepredicted. She and husband Larry are two members of what is arguably the first family of Iowa quarter horseracing.The Wesselses' involvement started in their hometown of Lamont in 1956, when Roger (Butch) Wessels, Larry'sbrother, bought his first racehorse. Soon, he got Larry andRegina involved, and then the children of each familybecame followed suit."Butch is the one that started it all," Regina said. "He wasthe one that started racing. We were more into barrelracing and horse shoes. We gave Butch money and hebought a yearling for us at a sale, and from then on, wewere making (race) horses."There was competitiveness, but we knew who had the
better horse and it was always Butch.”
Roger's son Kirk and daughter Amy are trainers. So washis son Mike and his late son, Jeff. Larry and Regina'sdaughter Kelly is a former trainer and now married to jockey Tom Wellington."They're a good family," said trainer John Hammes. "Thewhole family has been in it all their lives. They're hardworking and successful. They've paid their dues. They'revery well thought of."
Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Roger Wessels (left), who started racing horses in 1956,with daughter Amy and son Kirk, both trainers.
Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Regina (right) who trains and breeds horses with husband Larry, is shown with daughter Kelly and granddaughter Kylie.
All eight of the Wessels have trained Iowa-bred stakeswinners. All told, they have combined to win 29 stakesraces, including 23 at Prairie Meadows.Prissy Marshall, who won the 1989 Iowa StallionFuturity was trained by Roger and ridden by Kirk.The next year, Kirk switched to training after tiring of cutting weight so he could ride and won the race withHobo Magic. He is one of three people to win stakes atPrairie Meadows as a jockey and a trainer, along withMark Curtis and Shannon Ritter.For 32 seasons before Prairie Meadows opened, theWesselses spent their summer weekends traveling to bushmeets in Iowa and Nebraska."We went when we were babies," said Amy Wessels,who took up training after graduating from high school."We've never known anything else."There wasn't much money at the bush meets, but it didn'tmatter."It was so much of our life," Regina said. "We raced atCentral City along with Butch and everyone else. We ate alot of dirt, but had a lot of fun doing it. We were allinvolved. our son galloped for us. We had a little track (attheir acreage) where we got them ready, and off we wenton Sundays."