08/26/2016 10:40AM

Caton and Doug Bredar, and horse racing, have been perfect together

Barbara D. Livingston
Caton and Doug Bredar have been married for 26 years, but their careers in the racing industry often keep them physically separated.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Caton and Doug Bredar have been married 26 years – or about 12 in horse-racing years.

Their careers in racing often keep them physically separated despite their best efforts to spend as much time together as possible. As a broadcaster for numerous outlets, most recently TVG, Caton has carried a more public profile, while Doug has worked behind the scenes, first as a racing official and now as the agent for star jockey Florent Geroux.

“I keep saying we’re going to get a horse and name it ‘Love You Bye,’ ” Caton said. “We spend a lot of time on the phone with each other, and that’s what we say when we hang up.”

Both have been fabulously successful, although the power of television long has made Caton the more well-known of the two.

“Caton’s husband” is how people have often labeled him, Doug said, “and honestly, I’ve been OK with that. I’ve always wanted her to succeed.”

On Aug. 13, the Bredars took time away from their summer gigs at Saratoga to spend Arlington Million Day at Arlington Park in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where both grew up, albeit unknown to one another. It was one of the best days of their lives: Geroux won four of the five graded stakes held that day – the Million was his lone miss – and with Caton not on assignment, they enjoyed the afternoon together as normal spectators.

“It was a rare opportunity,” Caton said. “At one point, it occurred to me that we’re hardly ever side by side when these big races go on. It was all very exciting.”

Far more typically, Caton, 51, is in front of the camera, exuding competence and congeniality while explaining to viewers the complexities of a sport she was born into. Her maternal grandfather was the great jockey Ted Atkinson, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957 and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in his native country in 2002, three years before his death.

Her father was Raymond Metzler, who trained a small stable on the Chicago circuit while also taking on other racetrack jobs while raising Caton and her younger sister, Johanna, with his wife, Cathie, in nearby Barrington.

Caton learned horsemanship around her dad’s Arlington barn and continues to put that foundation to optimal use in her role as a bona fide racing expert. Anecdotes of her youth include the time she was busted by her grandfather – who by then was the Illinois state steward – for galloping horses on Arlington property before she turned the legal age of 16.

“He had this reputation for being tough and by the book,” she said, “but he was pretty nice to me about it.” She went on to graduate from Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., in 1987.

Doug, 54, came to racing in a more roundabout way. Growing up a few towns over from Arlington Heights in Des Plaines, he would occasionally attend the track with his parents, who had three other children much older than him (by 11 to 15 years). He attended two years at a local college before deciding to enter the racetrack industry program at the University of Arizona, graduating in 1984.

The couple met amid the ruins of the infamous Arlington fire of 1985, with both working in lower-level positions during a “tent meet” during the summer of 1987. They began dating, with Doug proposing two years later as the horses left the paddock at the brand-new Arlington for the 1989 Million, won by Steinlen.

“Doug called me over as if he wanted my opinion on how the horses looked,” Caton said. “But he had a ring. He asked me to marry him, and he dropped the ring in the grass, and we laughed and kissed, and it was just great. We got married the next April,” in Inverness, Ill.

While Caton was on a fast track to stardom within the racing industry – her television work in Chicago soon made her attractive to national networks with racing programming, such as ESPN – things were slower to evolve for Doug. He paid his dues by accepting jobs wherever he could move another rung up the ladder, working at tracks from coast to coast and virtually all points in between. Therein lay the circumstances that have kept the couple apart “probably more than 50 percent of the time” since they were married, according to Caton.

“Both of us realized very early on that our careers were very important to us,” Doug said. “I never wanted to get in the way of her career, and she felt the same way for me. We both had aspirations and dreams. By the same token, we’ve always had good intentions to try to stay together, but the travel and the moving can make it very difficult.”

Doug estimates he has worked at about 30 tracks, with his first job as a racing secretary coming in 1996-97 at The Woodlands in Kansas. He then served as racing secretary at Prairie Meadows (1998-99), Turf Paradise (2000-01), Churchill Downs and Ellis Park (2002-06), Louisiana Downs (2007-08), and Gulfstream Park (2009).

It was his hiring at Churchill that led both Bredars to believe that their racetrack merry-go-round had stopped. Eager to plant roots, they finally bought their first home in 2003 in Louisville, and that’s still their primary residence. Caton took a job with the local NBC affiliate, WAVE-TV, as a general-assignment reporter, with her expertise spotlighted during peak racing times such as the Kentucky Derby.

Meanwhile, neither the time nor conditions ever seemed to allow for children.

“In the beginning, we said we’d wait until we had a clearer idea of what we both were going to be doing,” Caton said. “By the time we were in Kentucky, you’re used to having everything your own way. By then, it became a choice. I think Doug thinks that I regret it. But I know that I don’t.”

Doug’s tenure at Churchill Downs included the 2005 implementation of the "Stars of Tomorrow" program, now a popular staple at the Louisville track’s September and fall meets. He regularly met and surpassed annual goals set by the corporation, but in September 2006, he was informed he was being let go.

“It was devastating for Doug,” Caton said.

They took comfort in one another, just as they had when Raymond Metzler died unexpectedly in a 1996 accident while hauling a horse van, and when Cathie Metzler suffered a fatal heart attack in 2006.

Doug also has lost both parents. One of his sisters, Devra, died of pancreatic cancer in 2008, and his brother, Dennis – a racing fan who took great joy in Doug’s accomplishments in the game – is serving a life sentence in Georgia for a capital offense committed in 2012.

“We’ve both gone through some extremely difficult times,” Caton said.

Their marriage got its sternest test in 2002: Both were living and working in California when Doug accepted the Churchill job.

“By then, we’d done a lot of moving already,” said Caton. “I’d been working full time for TVG in Los Angeles, and he was moving to Kentucky. It was another huge decision and pretty overwhelming.”

In early 2010, weary of the rancor and other frustrations that being a racing secretary can bring, Doug decided to make a dramatic career shift. One day at Gulfstream, he told trainer Patrick Biancone he was looking to become an agent, and before long, he and Geroux were a team.

“We went 1 for 57 our first meet together,” Doug said.

Over time, however, they made spectacular progress. In 2014, Geroux’s mounts earned $5.8 million while he rode his first Breeders’ Cup winner (Work All Week, BC Sprint), and things have quickly snowballed from there. In 2015, his mount earnings jumped to $10.2 million, and now, with still four months to go in 2016, he already has achieved career highs with 22 graded stakes wins (tops among North American riders) and more than $10.6 million in mount earnings (fifth).

“I always knew Florent was a very smart individual and the riding ability was there,” Doug said, “and when the ability caught up with the smarts, he’d be a total package.”

A jockey’s gross pay equals roughly 10 percent of what his mounts earn, and agents get 25 percent of that – so Doug is earning far more now than he ever did. In any case, he is still rubbing elbows with some of the most powerful and influential horsemen in America, albeit from a different vantage point.

“Being an agent isn’t nearly as easy as some people might think,” he said. “My background gave me the skill set to do well.”

John G. Dooley, the longtime race-caller at Arlington and Fair Grounds, has been friends with both Bredars for nearly 30 years.

“I think Caton is viewed as a great broadcaster and student of the game,” Dooley said. “Doug has covered a lot of bases as a racing official and did a lot to advance the tracks where he worked, and now he works tireless hours to make his rider the best. I have the greatest respect for them both, as many people do.”

For numerous reasons, the Bredars are a unique couple. Like most everyone their age, they have made sacrifices and endured heartbreak that speaks to the larger point that no one can have it all. Still, their nomadic lifestyle has led to widespread admiration in racing circles and beyond, and their racetrack dealings have allowed them to make hundreds of friends all across America.

“It’s pretty much the two of us,” Caton said. “We do have my sister, and we have nieces and nephews on Doug’s side, plus Florent and his wife [Kasey] and their two young children.

“We’ve had a great life in racing, even if it’s meant us having to be apart as much as we have. I’ve told people, this lifestyle isn’t for everybody, but if it is for you, it’s incredible. We’ve gotten to where we’re having so much fun. Sometimes you look back and wish you could’ve done it over so that you could appreciate it even more.”