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O'Briens Call Surprises Coleman

Published: January 10, 2019 9:56 am ET

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Casie Coleman had a pretty good idea there would be a reason for her to attend the 2018 O'Brien Awards in February, but the decorated trainer was still surprised when she received last month's call regarding the finalists.

"With the stable getting smaller and smaller, I know the chance for me to be nominated for Trainer of the Year is definitely going to be a thing of the past soon . . . I thought it wasn't possible now!" Coleman told Trot Insider after her success with O'Brien Award finalists McWicked and Stag Party landed her alongside fellow five-time Trainer of the Year Richard Moreau in this year's balloting. "I never would have guessed with such a small stable to still get nominated for this up against a guy with more wins than I have starts!"

While Coleman in fact only sent 150 starters to post in 2018, 43 wins among them yielded her a 28.7 per cent strike rate, a .412 UTR, and over $3.1 million in earnings. Her two O'Brien finalists combined for over $2.3 million of those earnings and 18 wins, among them some high-profile stakes scores on both sides of the 49th parallel.

McWicked cemented himself as a primal force among older pacers in 2018, winning 12 races, banking over $1.6 million, and completing his season with a five-race win streak including victories in the Breeders Crown and the TVG final. McWicked, an O'Brien Award winner in 2014 as a three-year-old, returns as a finalist in the older pacing category against Nirvana Seelster.

"Wicked was just awesome all season," said Coleman. "Not once was I disappointed with his performance; he gave it all he had every time he stepped on the track . . . that was a fun summer with him."

Despite wins in the Ben Franklin and the William Haughton Memorial along with a 1:46.2 lifetime mark taken in the Allerage at The Red Mile serving as highlights of the McArdle entire's seven-year-old season, his defeat of the much-hyped Lazarus N in the Canadian Pacing Derby was of special significance to Coleman.

"I'd never won that race and wanted it bad," Coleman explained. "He had a rough week with a quarter crack, Lazarus was all the talk all week long, and Wicked just dominated. That was a lot of fun."

Her other O'Brien nominee, freshman pacing colt Stag Party is a finalist along with Ontario Sires Stakes rival Bronx Seelster.

Stag Party showed immense potential by way of six wins in an abbreviated campaign cut short due to sickness which caused him to miss the Breeders Crown. Still, Coleman is optimistic for sustained success as the son of Bettors Delight enters his sophomore season.

"Stag is an extra special nomination: picking him as a baby myself and training him down from the start is just extra special," Coleman continued. "He’s a special animal and hopefully can have a big three-year-old season for us."

In just nine starts, Stag Party accounted for $669,489 in earnings and powerful wins in the Nassagaweya and the Metro Pace, both at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

"Stag destroying that Metro field opening up by five lengths in [1:]50 was pretty insane."

The five-time O'Brien Award-winning Trainer of the Year quickly acknowledges her stable's success is a team effort.

"I owe all my success this season to the awesome horses and my partners for giving me the chance and trusting me with such amazing animals, and obviously all my staff behind me," said Coleman. "My team works long, hard hours on all of these animals and I can’t do anything without them. The farms I’m training at now, Golden Horseshoe Lanes and Sunshine Meadows, are amazing facilities and that helps me to prep them to be at 110 per cent."

The gala, presented by Standardbred Canada and held Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale Hotel, is the 30th renewal of the O’Brien Awards.

"This award ceremony is by far the best I ever been to; they always do a great job and it’s a fun night," Coleman concluded. "I’m not much for dressing up, but to have to do it for this black-tie event is something to look forward to."

Coleman will be returning north from Florida for the event, and had just one small request for the Hilton Meadowvale and the Graydon Ballroom:

"If they'd just turn the heat up for us, that would be great!"

Tickets and program ads are now on sale and can be purchased by contacting the Member & Stakeholder Relations Department at 905-858-3060. Tickets are $200 each (includes HST) and include a cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, wine, and complimentary portrait.


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