Long-time trainer to run his horses at Will Rogers Downs
As a Cherokee Nation citizen, Shad Seaton has use of the “Cherokee Barn,” which is reserved for Cherokee trainers and owners, at Will Rogers Downs in Claremore. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Shad Seaton, owner and trainer at Will Rogers Downs, takes a horse out for a gallop on the track. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CLAREMORE – Before March ends, the rumble of hooves will again be heard at one of the Cherokee Nation’s popular entertainment venues. The thoroughbred season begins March 25 at Will Rogers Downs, and the track and its barns are busy with trainers and their horses.
Among them is CN citizen Shad Seaton, 43, of Vinita. His horses are in the track’s “Cherokee Barn.”
“The ‘Cherokee Barn’ is the newest barn built here, and it is by far the best,” he said. “It has the biggest and best stalls with the most give to the walls. It has a plastic type of wall. I could not get stalls on the ground until this barn was built, and it is just for Cherokee trainers and owners.”
The racing experience will be different for Seaton this year because he owns the horses he trains.
“I have trained horses for 27 years, but this is the first year I really went out and owned all my own horses,” he said. “I’ve owned one or two horses here or there, but this year I wanted to not work for anybody else but myself.”
For now, Seaton is working with thoroughbreds and not quarter horses.
“I went out and bought a bunch of young horses to get started, and hope to find that one good horse,” he said. “You run them when they are ready, not when you are ready. When they come along, they will tell me what kind of horses they are, but I don’t have anything picked out right now.”
Seaton is familiar with the WRD venue. He recalls being in the parking lot as a boy when it first opened. He races at Fair Meadows in Tulsa and Remington Park in Oklahoma City, and he has five horses running in Texas at Sam Houston Park, but he considers WRD his home track.
“From the time I grew up, my grandpa was a horse trainer,” Seaton said. “I always wanted to be a jockey, and at 16 I got my jockey license. That lasted about a year, and I grew up and got too big. I started training after college.”
The racing tradition continues in his family. Looking on his career, he points to a high point of winning the Oklahoma Sprint 15 years ago, but adds that he has “never been big time.”
“But probably the highlight of my career is my kids,” he said. “They are 20 and 17 now, and they worked with me their whole lives. My daughter got her trainer’s license for the first time. We got her some horses and she ran. So that was probably one of the biggest highlights – helping her get started in the horse racing business.”
Occasionally some people believe horse racing mistreats the animals and they criticize the “sport of kings.” Seaton said horses are an expensive investment and that their health is of paramount importance to trainers and owners.
“These horses are the way we make our living,” Seaton said. “We treat them with the best care possible. If they are hurt, we don’t run them. If they don’t feel good, we don’t run them. We give them the best feed, best hay, best exercise we can. They get their shoes on them once a month. The vet comes by every day and checks them. They get the best possible care.”
The training benefits go far beyond the monetary motivation for Seaton, and he is excited to get to the track each day.
“It gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning,” he said. “You never know if your next horse is going to be your ‘big’ horse. You’re always chasing that dream, always hoping for the better horse. It is a reason to work. I look at it as a workout program for me. I put in 10 or 12 hours a day, galloping and riding horses. It keeps me fit, and hopefully I’ll live longer.”
Seaton said the CN has given Oklahoma horse racing – and Cherokee participation in the sport – a tremendous boost with its WRD operation.
“They came in and took this place over,” he said. “The purses are bigger than they have ever been, and we can actually make money doing this and not struggle to get by. If it wasn’t for the Cherokees, none of this would have been possible. They pretty much saved this track.”