Coleman takes prestigious groom of the year honor

"They like to be in the spotlight. Not me, I like to stand back."

That's the words of Linda Coleman one day before she was named as the winner of the prestigious Harness Tracks of America/Hanover Shoe Farms Caretaker of the Year Award.

Coleman of Surrey cares for eight to 10 horses in the stable she operates with her husband, trainer Phil Coleman and her daughter Casie Coleman (those that she referred to as ling the spotlight). The family operates as a team, but it is Linda Coleman who gets each and every horse ready for training each day. As winner of the international award, she represents caretakers everywhere in the sport, and symbolizes their work ethic and devotion to their horses.

Nominated by her daughter Casie, who drives, Linda will receive an oil painting of herself and one of her most well known horses, Fast Lane Cruizin.

Casie wrote in part in her nominating letter, My mother has been grooming horses all her life. She hardly ever takes a day off because she misses her horses and they miss her. She has been the main man (woman) and the unsung hero of the Coleman Stable for the last 25 years. She knows where each and every pimple is on each of our horses, and knows the personality of each. Her horses are her babies, and when one is a little sick or a little lame and my dad and I want to jog it, she will let us know and insists on getting the vet to check it before allowing us to take it out on the track. Mom goes nuts when its time to put our colts in a claimer for the first time. If it were up to her, we would still have every horse we ever owned.

Fast Lane Cruizin, a winner of $490,000 lifetime, has been one of B.C.'s top horses and is runner-up for an O'Brien Award (for the second straight year) in the Older Pacing Mare category. Coleman also looks after Cruizin's half-brother, Fast Lane Phillips.

"I was shocked," Linda said when she got word of her win. "I would have been happy to have one of the jackets" (all grooms nominated in the annual competition, which is judged by an HTA committee of former caretakers who now hold responsible positions in the sport, receive handsome blue and gold jackets.

Linda was also proud of the work done by Casie to write the four-page nomination letter and then had to chuckle when one of the backstretch wags (initials MD) said with a chuckle: "I'd like to know how you become caretaker of the year in North America when you have never even been groom of the week at Fraser Downs."

Coleman will be honored Thursday, Feb. 21 at the Night of Stars, the closing event of the Harness Racing Congress at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

STILL SERGING: Serge Masse continued his torrid pace since the first of the year, chalking up seven more driving wins on Feb. 1-3 weekend. Masse now has 27 triumphs in 68 starts since arriving from Alberta. Bill Davis, top driver for the meet with 114 victories, also had seven wins. Rick White had five and Dave Hudon four. Masse also led in visits to the winner's enclosure as a trainer with six.

DANROTH TOP GROOMER: Congratulations to Michelle Danroth who is the IGA Market Place groom of the week. Michelle works for the Ken Dorman stable.

SAMANTHA READY: Samantha Square, the daughter of Albert Albert, will carry the favourite's role into Feb. 15's Miss Valentine feature race. Samantha finished 2001 in a blaze, with a Stakes win in each of November and December and an all-time highest earning total for B.C.-bred fillies in their three-year-old season of $166,000. There was to be Miss Valentine elimination races on Feb. 8 but only seven other challengers will take on the Rick White trained and driven Samantha Square. Others set to battle are Strengthandhonour, Taylor Lite, Celtic Myst, Red Star Flower, Red Star Sunshine, Penny Lace and Dal Reo Jewel.