Independence Day wins for 90-year-old Casey
CHARLES TOWN — There were no hand-held sparklers, no Roman candles or rocket’s red glare. It was the Fourth of July at the Charles Town Races.
The air was sultry and gripped the humidity in its fist. But the thoroughbred track was back from its forced silence brought by the coronavirus, and races were being contested at the refurbished track.
As the second race of Saturday evening loomed ahead, 90-year-old trainer James W. Casey had an entry in the basic claiming event.
His Scottish Denis, a dark bay son of Dennis of Cork, was the public’s choice at $1.30-1 betting odds.
This is the same Jim Casey who has roamed the indoor and outdoor paddocks at Charles Town for more than four decades. He has won over 1,000 races, and his Taylor Mountain thoroughbreds have all but patented winning success in the annual West Virginia Breeders Classics, including the “Classic” itself.
In the next race, Casey had Sweetin Bread entered in an allowance race where the purse was $28,000 and the winner would receive $16,800.
The copper-colored chestnut gelding was sired by another Casey stallion, Luftikus.
Sweetin Bread was not favored by the folks doing their off-track and simulcast betting. He went off at $5.80-1. . . and would reward his followers with $13.60 for their $2 win tickets on his stretch-running nose.
Casey’s thoroughbred had only prevailed by a neck after a protracted stretch duel that saw him refuse to give in, after he slide to the rail from the outside post in the seven-furlong race.
Scottish Denis and Sweetin Bread were Casey’s only two starters on Independence Day.
Time has been able to slow him some in recent years. He uses a walker to get from his pre-race post to the winner’s circle. But when taking another first place on a Breeders Classic night on a fall evening, he is surrounded by maybe 30 people posing for the photographs to be kept for posterity.
Through the fast-flying decades, Casey has remained matter-of-fact and even self-effacing when any of his successes are mentioned. His two sons, James M. and John, do much of the everyday work on their family property, Taylor Mountain Farm in Charles Town.
When he retired from teaching at James Wood High in Winchester, Casey and his wife Eleanor had more time to begin etching their names and their home-bred thoroughbred’s names into the state record books. Eleanor named the foals and also was very influential in evaluating any thoroughbreds her husband might purchase for breeding stock.
Now at 90, Casey can look back and see his varsity football teams at James Wood and his “varsity” thoroughbreds winning big-money races at Charles Town.
There probably won’t be any fireworks lighting the sky or any Fourth of July celebrations dominating an evening in Charles Town, but Casey has other thoughts on his mind, about the many stakes races to be won at Charles Town before his 91st birthday in March next year.