10/05/2016 11:56AM

Charitable Annuity takes over where Russell Road left off for Casey

Coady Photography
Charitable Annuity, trained by 86-year-old James W. Casey, will try to win the West Virginia Breeders' Classic for a second time Saturday.

Longtime West Virginia horseman James W. Casey certainly is staying busy at age 86. He has trained 45 winners this year and is only four away from 1,000. He also operates Taylor Mountain Farm in Charles Town, which stands four stallions.

On Saturday night, Casey will attempt to win the $450,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic with Charitable Annuity for the second straight year. His recently retired 10-year-old Russell Road is scheduled to lead the post parade for the Classic, a race he won three times for owner Mark Russell, who also races Charitable Annuity.

Oh, and horse racing is Casey’s second career.

Casey, who served in the armed forces in Germany, taught for 32 years. He was a gym teacher and coached baseball and basketball at James Wood High School in Winchester, Va. He went on to be the school’s athletic director.

“I loved teaching,” Casey said. “I retired at age 56.”

Casey and his late wife, Eleanor, increased their involvement with horse racing after his retirement.

“I probably wouldn’t have been in the horse business without her,” Casey said. “I’ve always liked it, but she liked it more than I did. She loved those horses.”

Eleanor Casey died following a freak accident at Charles Town in 2005. She was watching horses train when a horse got loose and broke through the rail near where she was standing. She got out of the way but fell and broke a leg. James Casey said she died of heart problems after losing a lot of blood.

“She was a great girl,” Casey said. “She was raised on a horse farm, and her father died when she was in first grade. They didn’t have very much.”

Eleanor Casey went on to become a successful stockbroker for the firm Scott and Stringfellow. According to James Casey, the business had 205 brokers at the time, and Eleanor was the only woman.

“She was never No. 1, but she was No. 2 three years,” Casey said. “They were paying her a salary, and everyone else was on commission. They had a meeting, and she stood up and said she didn’t think that was fair, and they voted right then and there. She went from making $15,000 to $85,000 in one day.”

The Caseys’ children also are deeply involved in horse racing. John Casey is a trainer, blacksmith, and manages the family farm. James M. Casey is a trainer and veterinarian.

Russell Road, who was retired with a minor injury this summer, won 31 of 62 starts beginning in 2008. He earned slightly more than $2 million, second among West Virginia-breds only to Soul of the Matter, who earned $2.3 million for owner-breeder Burt Bacharach and trainer Richard Mandella during the 1990s.

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“Russell Road earned just about all of his money in West Virginia,” Casey said. “The other horse never raced here.”

Russell Road has been stabled at Taylor Mountain Farm, but Casey sent him back to Charles Town on Tuesday to get him ready to lead the post parade for the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic. Charles Town has announced that it will rename the Wild and Wonderful Stakes in Russell Road’s honor beginning next year.

It was almost as if Russell Road passed the baton to his younger stablemate in last year’s Breeders’ Classic. Charitable Annuity rallied from off the pace to win by 2 3/4 lengths, while Russell Road tired to finish ninth after bleeding during the race.

Casey said Charitable Annuity is ready to defend his title.

“He’s doing wonderful,” Casey said. “It’s not going to be a walkover, though. It’s going to be a nice race. He really likes the 1 1/8 miles.”

◗ West Virginia Classics night at Charles Town will consist of nine stakes for statebreds. Total purses for the nine races will be $1.17 million. First post is 7 p.m. Eastern.