Friends First

Their hometowns sit over 6,000 kms apart - one in B.C. and the other in Nova Scotia - but they met and became friends in Ontario over two decades ago. Now, in 2024, after many years of friendship and hard work, they went into the final of the Pepsi North America Cup with two top contenders - both developed and owned in-part by her, and both trained by him. By Dan Fisher.

A little over 20 years ago, a girl from Surrey, British Columbia became friends with a guy from Port Hood, Nova Scotia. Their two hometowns might be 6,042 kms apart, but that didn’t seem to matter to fate, who had them cross paths somewhere in the vicinity of Woodstock, Ontario. On Saturday, June 15, 2024, at Woodbine Mohawk Park, that girl, Casie Coleman, won her third Pepsi North America Cup, her first though, where she was not the trainer. That guy, Anthony Beaton, was her trainer, and the night was the culmination of many years of both friendship, and working together. Spend any amount of time with the pair however, and you’ll see that even though they’re both hard workers, it’s truly, friends first.


“I had moved to Ontario and was still just working as a groom for my parents,” Coleman reflected, just over 48 hours prior to the 41st edition of the Pepsi North America Cup - a race that would feature two legitimate contenders owned in-part by Coleman and trained by Beaton.

“I didn’t know anybody here, but a good friend of mine from out west, Morgan Devlin, was working for Rod Hennessy at a farm near Woodstock. I used to go out there and hang out with her a lot, and that’s how I met Tony and his wife Lisa - they weren’t married yet at that time though. Tony was working for Rod and we all became friends and hung out a lot… we’d go for drinks or dinner, or to the races together. Eventually I opened my own stable, and when I started doing some good and needed some help, Tony came to work for me.”

“It must have been three years after we became friends that I actually went to work for Casie,” Tony shares. “I know that I worked for Rod for two more summers [after meeting her], and then for Paul MacKenzie for one. Paul was down on horses and I knew that I needed to find work, so I called Casie and apparently someone had just quit. She asked me if I wanted to start the next day, but it was a Friday,” Beaton laughs. “I remember asking if I could just start on the Monday instead (laughing).”

“Tony was a great groom and a hard worker,” says Coleman. “We had a lot of claimers and overnight horses then, and they all had their share of aches and pains. His horses were always well-cared for though, and they won a lot of races. I remember one named Sign Up Express that won seven in a row for us [in 2006]. I also know that I didn’t keep him as a groom for long… I made him an assistant trainer fairly quickly,” shares Beaton’s proud former boss.

“Working for Casie back then was a great experience,” says Tony. “It seemed like every year we had at least one good one. American Ideal ($855,928) was four [years-old] when I arrived, and when he left, here comes Moving Pictures ($1.3 million) and Chancey Lady ($2 million). Then it was Idyllic ($1.3 million) and Betterthancheddar ($1.6 million) and Sportswriter ($1.6 million). We developed them all, and it was like a revolving door of champions,” he beams. “We had a really great crew too… guys like Garry Merner and Andrew [Harris], who have gone on to have success on their own.

“Now Andrew, he was actually just an add-on,” Tony jokes. “We didn’t really want him, we wanted his girlfriend, Dinelle Stratton, who was a really good groom - but Andrew was part of a package deal (laughing). Andrew became a huge asset to the stable though, and now he’s one of the best trainers out there.

“Boyd Wilson worked there too, and he trains his own stable now as well… Boyd looked after a lot of good horses for us like Vegas Vacation ($1.1 million) and Western Silk ($1.7 million) and Cheddar. I spent a lot of time on the road with Boyd back then,” Tony smiles widely. “Man, we had a lot of fun.”

Speaking of fun, Tony Beaton is just a fun person. He loves to laugh and joke around, and it’s something his former boss remembers well, and is still the target of, to some degree, to this day.

“Tony worked for me for over 10 years,” shares Casie, “and he was always the prankster - the jokester. He wasn’t the one that necessarily pulled off the pranks in the end, but he was always the instigator. He was the mastermind behind it, but then he didn’t technically do it. Instead, he’d become the quiet guy in the corner that never raised his voice but was laughing at everyone.” Casie laughs a little, as she reminisces about some fun times that obviously hold a special place in her heart.

When confronted with Coleman’s memories, Beaton replies in-kind.

“Let’s just say that you’ve gotta think quick and remember who you’re dealing with in the barn,” he laughs. “It just keeps it fun and helps make the day go by a bit quicker. It’s like the room in hockey… I just like to have fun. I just think that you have to be willing to have a little joke in your life,” says Tony. “You have to be able to take some ribbing too. We all know that a lot of bad things can happen in this sport… having some fun at work just makes things a little less stressful.”

Beaton was obviously a very popular character in the Coleman Stable, and when sitting back and observing the relationship between he and Casie now, while he’s working away in his own barn just a few days prior to Canada’s biggest night of Standardbred racing, it’s obvious that he’s still very popular with Coleman herself. Suffice it to say that he gets away with a bit more in regard to ribbing his former employer, than most would.

“Andrew and I both still give it to her [Casie] pretty good to this day,” Tony smiles. “But don’t kid yourself - she can give it back pretty good too! (laughing).”

“Everyone on the staff loved him,” says Casie. “Tony ran my barn in Canada and Andrew ran my barn in the States. We were well up over 100 horses for a while there, and I was all over the place. With those two in charge I never had to worry a bit that things weren’t being done properly while I was away.”

During those days, Beaton himself had the chance to get his name on the ownership papers of a few decent horses too.

“I owned parts of a couple that were just average at first… it wasn’t all roses right away when it came to owning them,” he laughs. “But the first year Casie was going to Florida for the winter, I met her at the Lexington Sale. We were meeting at the Kentuckiana consignment to look at Hip #5 - a black Bettors Delight colt named Vegas Vacation that I just fell in love with. Steve Calhoun was buying him, and we were guessing how much he was going to go for. On the walk down to the ring though, I remember that Steve changed his mind, and Casie was like ‘Arrgh, Arrgh, Arrgh’ (laughing). So she gets him for a fraction of what we thought he’d bring… She only paid $32,000. She offered him to Steve again but I think the low price scared him off.

“Casie had said I could buy into any that were still available, and that I could decide when I came down to Florida in a few months to work. Lisa and I got down there in February, and Casie was trying to talk me into this Cams Card Shark filly, but I said ‘If I’m buying one it’s that big, black guy [Vegas] right there’ (laughing). I did buy into the filly as well though, and at two they raced in the finals of the Metro and the Shes A Great Lady. The filly [Miss Lauren] was fifth, and Vegas didn’t get a cheque, but we owned parts of a couple of good ones. Miss Lauren got injured after her two-year-old year and didn’t make it back to the races for us, but we won The [Little Brown] Jug with Vegas of course, and that was quite a memory,” Tony smiles.

A memory that once again included some fun hijinx along the way. Maybe Tony didn’t implement it - or maybe he did - but he definitely became a part of it at some point, because he was the one that had to make sure Casie was unaware of the happenings around her - until it was alright for her to know of course.

Anyone that knows Casie Coleman is well aware of her drastically superstitious nature when it comes to her racehorses, and the trip to the 2013 Little Brown Jug was one that definitely kept Tony on his toes, because while he trying to win the classic event as both a part-owner and an assistant trainer, he was also trying to keep his boss - and his buddies -  content at the same time.

“A bunch of my friends from ‘Home’ came down to Delaware that year,” laughs Tony, while remembering a few wonderful days in Ohio. “So on the Wednesday night they get these t-shirts made up - they had the Las Vegas sign on them and said ‘I’m on a Vegas Vacation in Delaware, Ohio’. She hated stuff like that… I mean she would have killed us if she saw those shirts - especially if the horse got beat. So I told them all, no matter what, she couldn’t see those t-shirts until after - that they had to keep them covered up with other shirts or jackets. And if we didn’t win, then she could never see them. I’ll never forget,” he beams, “at the sight of those fellas running across the infield to the winner’s circle of The Jug, pulling off their coats and their sweaters as they ran (laughing). Once she saw the t-shirts in the winner’s circle she was fine with it, because we had already won.”

It was Coleman’s aforementioned move to Florida, however, the year that Vegas was purchased, that was the beginning of the end of the employer-employee relationship for the good friends.

“The first while I kept a few horses racing in Canada all winter,” Casie recalls. “It kept a few of the owners happy and it kept Tony working up here too. But when I decided I only wanted two and three-year-olds, and I didn’t want to race at all in the winter, that made it more difficult. Tony and Lisa came down south for a few years. She could do her job from anywhere, on the computer, for the most part. But they had a house, and she had to go to the office sometimes as well, so eventually it just became too much.”

In 2017, Beaton went out on his own and had 13 wins from just 88 starts, while accumulating just shy of $230,000 in purses. Those numbers went up for four straight years, and in 2020 he notched 51 wins and more than $1.3 million in purses. In fact, 2021 is the only year in the past five that his stable hasn’t eclipsed the $1 million mark.

Some notable performers that have impressed from the Beaton Stable since Tony branched out on his own include Grand Circuit winners Magical Arthur, Rose Run Vantage, and Redwood Hanover, as well as hard-knockers like Ideal Perception and Best Keepsake.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2021 when teacher and student ended up partnering once again.

“I brought my horses up to Classy Lane in 2021 and was stabled in the barn next to Tony’s,” Casie shares. “Linedrive Hanover had broken down at ages two and three, but I knew that he was a good horse so I waited on him. I was headed back down to Florida that fall and I knew that Linedrive needed to race that upcoming winter. He was turning four, and had only ever raced a few starts at two… I asked Tony if he wanted to keep him for the winter.”

“Casie asked me, in Lexington, if I had room for one that coming winter,” Tony acknowledges. “I knew exactly who she meant so I said ‘Sure’. I think he had been in [2]:25 or [2]:30 at that point, so we got him ready and took him in to qualify in January. I told James [MacDonald] that he was a nice horse, but just to get him around without setting any speed records. I think he finished fifth or sixth and paced a mile in [1]:59 or something… and the messages that were waiting [from Casie] on my phone after weren’t too nice,” he laughs heartily.

“James told me that if he gave him his head that morning he probably could have qualified in [1]:54,” smiles Tony, “but I’ve never got paid yet for one that qualified fast. I still joke with Casie to this day that she’s still pissed off at that slow qualifier with Linedrive, but I also remind her that she wasn’t too pissed off at those next 12 starts (laughing).”

The son of Betting Line would win his first 10 starts racing out of the Anthony Beaton Stable, followed by a narrow defeat to Desperate Man in their elimination of the Charles Juravinski Memorial at Flamboro Downs. The following week, Linedrive, MacDonald and Beaton set a new Canadian Record of 1:49h in the $273,500 final of the Juravinski - beating, among others, Bulldog Hanover.

“That final of the Confederation Cup [Juravinski] was the first time that I was ever at a race live, as just an owner,” laughs Casie. “I was kind of thinking that I might train him myself that summer, but I’m really superstitious, and he raced so good that night and had won so many times for Tony, that I decided that I should leave him right where he was.

“I didn’t have a great year with my other horses that year [2022], and I had sold my house in Cambridge, so when I was up here racing I was living in a hotel… my car was broken down half the summer - it really wasn’t a great time. It’s hard to get good help here too, when you’re only here for part of the year, so that situation wasn’t great either,” she reasons. “I also love it in Florida; I mean I absolutely love my life there. When I’d leave here for Florida every fall I’d be super-excited, but you’re supposed to feel the same way in the spring, when you’re coming back north to race all summer. I didn’t feel that way though. I literally despise leaving Florida for the most part.

“With all of that in mind, and with the great relationship I’ve always had with Tony, not to mention the success he’s had with Linedrive, I decided that I was just going to develop horses in the winter from now on, and send them to other people to race. [NA Cup starters] Nijinsky and Legendary Hanover were both part of the first crop of babies that I sent north to Tony, and they’ve both really excelled in his care. I couldn’t be happier with their success.

“I let him train them how he wants to. I see that he runs his barn a lot like I did anyway, but I’m sure he’s changed the way he does things a little too. We’re actually a good team, because Tony runs an excellent barn but he’s not necessarily the best communicator,” she laughs. “I am. So he does the training with his crew, and I deal with all of my partners and keep them informed. They all know and like Tony from his days with me as well, so it’s been a really great fit,” Casie smiles.

Beaton seems more than happy with the arrangement as well.

“She still doesn’t like the way we qualify them,” he laughs in his jovial manner, “but I tell James ‘Don’t worry about her, she’s going to find a reason to give us a hard time regardless’ (laughing). This year we qualified them [Nijinsky and Legendary] too slow the first time [1:54] and then too fast the second time,” he laughs. “But we both handle her together - it just gets a bit rugged sometimes (laughing).”

* * * *

On June 15th at Mohawk, Nijinsky, owned in-part by Casie’s West Wins Stable, and trained by her good friend Tony Beaton, parked the entire mile, and captured the $1 million North America Cup, in 1:48.1, for driver Louis-Philippe Roy.      

“I watched the race under one of the TVs by the paddock,” shared Tony a few days later, “where I could see both the track and the TV. I was pretty sure that one of our two was going to get parked the whole way, but I thought it might have been Legendary and not Nijinsky,” he laughed.“ They both raced great… the top five or six in there all raced great. I know Andrew [Harris] was close by when they hit the wire, and he yelled something to me, and I’m certain that Dave Menary grabbed me and said something as I started towards the winner’s circle. A lot of it was a blur at that point,” he smiled.

“When I won it with Sportswriter I pretty well ran half way up the stretch calling him home,” laughed Casie. “With Betting Line, he was so far back coming around the last turn, I figured he had no chance, but then he came home in :25.4 to nail it. That was incredible. This was my first one as just an owner, so I was up in the clubhouse. I thought that I had calmed down a bit over the years, but I was seated right on the glass, and when Louis put him under a drive in the stretch, I started banging the crap out of the glass in front of me,” Casie laughed.

“All of the big wins are special, and it will never get old, but I have to say that it was really neat watching one of my horse-students win the North America Cup with one of my old human-students training him. That was very cool,” reflected Casie.

“You know, last year at two, ‘Ninja’ had a ton of speed,” shared Coleman. “He always showed a ton of ability, he just had some bad manners and a few issues with his gait. He wasn’t very handy at all and we had to be careful getting him out of there, so he always got away far back - but he almost always came home better than :27 seconds.

“The plan was totally to geld him last winter because of it,” she laughs. “He was turned out at Anvil and Lace for a while though, and I like mine to be jogging when we geld them, so we waited until he came in. I would have done it right away but I like Dr. Cummins to do mine, and he was never available it seemed. So we started back with him and his manners were just way better - so was his gait. He used to chuck his head all of the time too, and he wasn’t doing it anymore. The plan for that next little while really was to geld him still, but we just never got around to it, and he was training fantastic all winter. I’m not saying he’s definitely going to be a stallion one day, but right now I will say that I’m glad he’s still got his nuts! (laughing).”

Coleman admitted that she’s pictured what it might look like to retire completely, and just buy a few babies each fall and send them to Tony to develop. Asked when that might happen however, the reply was, “Maybe next year; maybe in 50 years.”

As for Tony, he agrees that they seem to have a good thing going, and in his affable manner he laughs that he just has to stay on top of his friend, partner, and former boss, and keep reminding her, “Not to mess them up on me before they come north!”

 This feature originally appeared in the July issue of TROT Magazine. Subscribe to TROT today by clicking the banner below.

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