Ladies First In Racing
By Perry Lefko
Tracy Brainard and Casie Coleman are making horse racing history.
The two ladies are doing something unprecedented this year battling for the leading trainer honors in North America. That has never happened in any form of horse racing – Standardbred, Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse.
Brainard is second in purse earnings with more than $6.7 million, about $5.5 million behind Ron Burke, who has sent out almost four times as many starters. Coleman is fourth overall with more than $5.4 million, but she’s started only a third as many as Burke.
Coleman is fourth overall in the win category with 248 – Burke is the runaway leader with 650 – while Brainard is eighth with 778.
Those stats should change significantly this week, in particular on Saturday at Woodbine in the 25th edition of the Breeders Crown.
Brainard is sending out six horses, all owned by the powerful Bulletproof Enterprises, including the powerful trio of Kabbalah Karen B, Yellow Diamond and Shacked Up in the three-year-old filly pace. She also has the duo of If I Can Dream and Vertical Horizon in the three-year-old colts and geldings pace, and Higher And Higher in the two-year-old filly pace.
Coleman is also represented in the two-year-old filly pace with Western Silk, whom she owns in partnership with Tom Hill.
Much focus will be on Coleman’s other starter, Sportswriter. He is the dominant two-year-old colt pacer this year, having won all seven of his starts, and is poised to add the eighth in the Crown. Some people are saying Sportswriter has the potential to become the greatest colt pacer in harness racing history. He has raced faster as a two-year-old than two-time harness horse of the year Somebeachsomewhere. Coleman owns an interest in him with majority owner Steve Calhoun and others.
Coleman is no stranger to success, voted the leading trainer in Canada in 2005 and 2006. She is the only woman to have claimed that honor.
Both Brainard and Coleman should be among the finalists for Canada’s top trainer this year, something which would be a first. Brainard is leading the Mohawk/Woodbine circuit with more than $3.1 million in earnings. Coleman is only $30,000 behind.
Brainard is second overall in wins, while Coleman is one behind.
Notwithstanding what is happening in Ontario, there is every reason to believe both could be finalists for trainer of the year in North America. A woman has never won that award.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable that two of us may be the nominees for something like that,” Coleman said.
Both Brainard and Coleman, who don’t know one another, are well aware that what they are doing is unprecedented for women in horse racing.
“It’s always been a male-dominated sport, so I realize that this is definitely something new for harness racing on the Grand Circuit level,” Brainard said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Both are quick to point out they consider themselves trainers first and foremost, rather than women trainers.
“I am a trainer,” said Brainard, a third-generation horseperson born and raised in the U.S. “Whether people look at you differently, I don’t know.”
Coleman grew up as a self-admitted tomboy in Canada and has never looked at herself as being any different from men in whatever she has done.
“People always say I know it’s a big (knock) being a female coming up in anything, let alone harness racing, in which there’s few,” Coleman said. “Hopefully other females will get into it more and see that we can do it, too, but it never bothered me any. I’ve never seen myself as any less or lower or can’t do the same as a male. Whether female, male, you’re all going to get the same results if you work hard.”
Female Trainers of Breeders Crown winners
Linda Toscano – 2002 Mare Pace winner Molly Can Do It (first female winning trainer)
Linda Wallis – 2003 Three-year-Old Filly Pace winner Burning Point
Kimberlie Miller – 2006 Two-Year-Old Colt Pace winner Charley Barley
Casie Coleman – 2007 Mare Pace winner Moving Pictures; 2008 Three-Year-Old Filly Pace winner A And Gsconfusion (first two-time female winner)
Julie Miller – 2009 Open Trot winner Lucky Jim (first female trainer of a trotting winner)