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Horses Over Fishing And Hockey

Published: July 12, 2020 11:30 am ET

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Hockey Player? Millwright? Electrician? Nope.

A fishing gig on Cape Breton in the spring? Maybe later...

Anthony Beaton’s journey from Port Hood, N.S., to becoming a premier Standardbred trainer in Ontario wasn’t necessarily straightforward, but it was one original phone call that would alter the next two decades of his life.

“In the fall of 2001, I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted to come to Ontario and work for Rod Hennessy. I didn’t really have much going on so I went to give it a try... I thought I’d stay until I could get a job in electrical, and I also had a fishing job lined up for the following spring. It's been 19 or 20 years now and I’m still here,” Beaton told Trot Insider with a laugh.

Growing up in Port Hood on Cape Breton Island, Beaton was introduced to harness racing through his older brother. “My brother had horses when I was growing up, he’s close to 20 years older than me, and I kinda just hung around him, but I honestly can’t say how he got involved...I just followed in his footsteps later on.”

Like the majority of Canadians, Beaton grew up playing hockey, but at a certain age, like most, he realized that hockey wasn’t going to pay the bills. “I played some Jr. B and some Senior back in Cape Breton but I knew the hockey wasn’t going anywhere around the time I was in high school. It’s the path we all wanted to go down, the hockey side, but [at some point] you've got to realize it’s not going to work that way,” Beaton stated.

After high school, Beaton studied trades and believed that to be his path moving forward. “I took a trade to be a Millwright but that didn’t work out, I then tried Electrical and thought that was the path I was going down.”

However, fate would have much different plans for the Cape Bretoner.

Upon arriving in Ontario Beaton settled in with Hennessy, eventually becoming one of Rod’s most trusted employees. “I never went out to Alberta with Rod, I was here overseeing things [in Ontario] for him while he bounced back and forth,” said Beaton. “We had a great relationship and still do to this day.”

After three-and-a-half or four years with Rod, Beaton moved over to Paul MacKenzie’s stable for 11 months or so. “Ed James from SSG Gloves asked if I would go stay with some of the horses from Rod’s that were moving to Paul’s,” Beaton illustrated.

After close to a year with Mackenzie, Beaton would make another move. “He [Paul] was getting low on horses and said somebody had to go, so I just called Casie Coleman and asked if she needed anybody...she asked if I could start the next day, and I was there for the next decade.

For the first year, Beaton worked as a groom for Coleman. “Eventually one of the trainers moved on and she asked me if I wanted to become one of her assistant trainers. Obviously it was a step up and more time-consuming, but I told her I would have to discuss it with my wife [Lisa]. This business is time-consuming whether you're a groom or a trainer, so I took Casie up on her offer.”

Beaton was eventually presented with another opportunity, this time a five percent stake in a brown son of Bettors Delight purchased in 2011 at Lexington for $32,000.

“One year (2011), Casie asked if we would like to buy into a yearling, and if so we were more than welcome... I had kind of had made up my mind pretty quickly on one of the yearlings because I happened to be in Lexington that year. I fell in love with him at the sale. Casie told me ‘You don’t need to pick right now, you’re coming down [to Florida] in February, you can sit behind them and then pick which one you want,’ but I replied ‘But I already know which one I want,” Beaton recalled with a chuckle.

That horse turned out to be the 2013 Little Brown Jug champion, millionaire and O'Brien Award winner Vegas Vacation (p,3,1:48.3f; $1,176,368). Tony’s wife, Lisa, and friend April Campbell still own and ride Vegas to this day, and the group was profiled in the April edition of TROT.

After a successful decade with Coleman, Beaton decided to take what he had learned over the years and test the waters with his own stable of horses. “I definitely use lots of the training techniques I learned while at Casie’s. I took care of the feeding program there for years too...the vitamins and supplements...I took some of that knowledge along too.”

Out on his own Beaton has tasted some success on the Ontario Sires Stakes circuit the past few seasons, with pacing fillies such as Better Single (p,3,1:51s; $306,556), Rose Run Vantage (p,2,1:51.3s; $201,007) and Free Flyin Ticket (p,2,1:52.1s; $96,394), and this year he’s off to a great start. The soft-spoken man from “Down Home” currently finds himself atop the Johnston Cup points standings as the leading trainer in the OSS program. With one of Ontario's hottest stables at the moment, Trot Insider asked him to discuss some of his brightest stars.

Bet On Becky (OSS Gold winner on July 7):

“She’s been nothing but a sweetheart since I got here...she’s like a sports car, you say go, she goes. I’d be content if she won in ‘53 or ‘54 [the other night]; I knew she could go fast but when I saw 1:50.4 flash up on the board, and how easy she did it, I was definitely surprised -- even though I thought she could go there. In the barn, you wouldn’t even know she’s there, she won’t bother anyone. She’s just a nice filly to be associated with.”

Best Keepsake (Finished second to Bet On Becky on July 7):

“I thought we had a chance at second with her, but to be honest I was very impressed with her. She was parked to the quarter and she was looking for room in the stretch. [Bet On] Becky got away from them, but I was very pleased with her debut.”

Ring Of Kerry (Finished third in an OSS Gold on July 7):

“She can get a little hot under the collar but impressed the other night also. We were a bit unlucky, maybe, coming up the stretch but that’s racing. When we got her we didn’t know what we had... she’s a homebred but she's really matured into a nice horse. She really didn’t look like much a few months ago, but she’s just looking more like a nice horse every day.”

Rose Run Vantage (2019 Champlain winner; second in OSS Gold on June 29):

“I think she’s a serious player in the three-year-old ranks this season, I’m very fortunate to have gotten her. I got a call from down east and was initially supposed to get a colt last year, but the colt didn’t turn out and I was sent this Big Jim filly from Gilles Barrieau. He’s a great horseman… what can you say with his O’Brien Awards and such. I believe they might be sending a Bettors Delight colt down to us this summer.”

Saratoga Blue Chip (OSS Grassroots winner on July 6):

“He was very good the other night but he’s really his own worst enemy. He was a little revved up and excited... first night away from home. I was impressed that he dug in all the way to the wire. I think we’re gonna try him in the Gold next.”

“We’ve been really lucky so far this year...we have a nice barn full of horses.”

The Beaton Stable currently consists of 27 head stabled at Classy Lane Training Centre, and there aren’t many nights when the trainer in the black and silver colours isn’t at a track somewhere in Ontario. “We’re definitely putting in a lot of time these days but that’s why you work hard all winter,” Beaton smiled.

“I guess I never did go back for that fishing job, did I?” Tony said with a laugh.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Justin Fisher)

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