first published in The Equiery’s November 2022 edition

This year’s Joe Kelly Unsung Hero Award has been presented to Fran Burns of Baltimore County. The award is granted to an individual who promotes the Thoroughbred industry and celebrates the characteristics and passion of the late Joe Kelly, the first and only publicist for the Maryland Million.

Burns has been an active racing fan and supporter of Thoroughbred aftercare for more than a dozen years. She grew up riding and showing in Baltimore. In 2008 Burns adopted an ex-racehorse named Dustin’s Dreamer and turned him into a champion show horse. Since then, she has assisted with fundraising programs, sponsorships and promotion for MidAtlantic Horse Rescue. Burns also volunteers at Canter for a Cause each year.

In addition, Burns is the Head Tour Guide for the annual Sunrise at Old Hilltop Tours during Preakness week and runs tours of the backside at Timonium during the Maryland State Fair meet. Burns is in charge of hiring and managing tour guides for both programs.

Burns was one of the co-founders of the Thoroughbred Alliance Show series and manages their Facebook page. The page continues to provide updates on horses, horse shows and other Thoroughbred-related programs.