I am not exactly sure what I was expecting last July when my daughter and I drove to visit Shirley Prosser and her 31 year-old Thoroughbred Beau Fasa. Having met Shirley on a few occasions I already knew that she defied stereotypes and was not your typical 82 year old senior. However I had visualized Beau Fasa to be typical of what older horses generally look like. I was certain that he would possess a sway back and would walk with a careful, measured stride. Was I ever wrong.
Set loose in a paddock at Shirley’s Box Arrow Farm, the Multiple Graded Stakes winning retiree looked race ready as he ran towards me, no doubt curious to know my intent of capturing him in his senior glory. Strutting along the fence-line I was given a glimpse of the fabulous runner he once was on the racetrack completely shattering my earlier vision of him.
Upon hearing the news that Beau Fasa peacefully passed away in late February I am thankful that we had the pleasure of meeting him last summer.
A Pennsylvania-bred, Beau Fasa was a $12,000 graduate of the Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic Selected Sale. The 1986 chestnut gelding began his career racing at Garden State, Philadelphia Park and Finger Lakes where he recorded a couple of wins in a dozen starts on the dirt.
Beau Fasa came to race at Fort Erie Race Track and caught the eye of trainer Gord Colbourne who noticed that the claimer’s turf pedigree had yet to be tried.
In his first start at The Fort Gord claimed Beau Fasa in 1989 and promptly switched him to the turf where he won going 7 furlongs. Unfortunately he was immediately claimed by Trainer Ralph Biamonte for Gemini Farms. Then in 1991 Gord Colbourne claimed Beau Fasa back for owner G.R. Ryan. A few starts later while he remained under the tutelage of Gord, he was running for new owner Shirley (Thomas) and her family’s Box Arrow Farm.
As mentioned in this Ottawa Life article, Shirley was a “teenage jumping ace” and the first female equestrian to ride internationally under the Canadian flag. While at school in North Carolina, Shirley had ridden a couple of racehorses and frequently attended the races. Also competing in horse shows hosted in the infield at Greenwood Racetrack, Shirley was familiar with racing and had dabbled with claiming horses previously. Although it would be Beau Fasa that would become her biggest thrill at the track.
Box Arrow Farm was named for one of the cattle brands of the Thomas family, which also included cattle brand FD9 and SarsZ for the horses. Shirley’s grandfather, Robert Cadogan Thomas, immigrated to Calgary, Alberta in 1881 from Glamorganshire, South Wales. At the age of 19 he began the Thomas Ice and Fuel Co. (later called Alberta Ice Co.) among other successful businesses. Also investing in Real Estate he erected the Wales Hotel across from his Royal hotel on what was known as the Thomas block in Calgary.
Married to Agnes Egerie Louise Shaw, the couple had four children including Shirley’s father, Christopher Thomas who would move East to Ottawa, Ontario after marrying cosmetic entrepreneur Laura Alice Boreham, a young widow with two children at the time. Shirley was born to Christopher and Laura in the mid-thirties and it didn’t take her long to discover her passion for horses.
Shirley Thomas was riding at age 4 and competed in her first horse show at age five. While away competing in Europe with her mum, on a whim, her father purchased a beautiful property in Portland, Ontario along the Rideau Lakes. Named Box Arrow Farm it became the family’s summer home.
Box Arrow Farm would eventually become the homestead of Shirley and her family and today remains the picturesque farm from where she lives and runs her business of breeding, selling and racing Thoroughbreds. It is also here that Beau Fasa retired at the age of ten as a multiple Graded Stakes winner.
As Gord had expected, Beau Fasa flourished on the turf and immediately won a back to back pair of starter handicap races going long in July 1991 for Box Arrow Farm.
His six-year-old season would become the start of a chapter of thrills for Gord and Shirley as Beau Fasa finished in the top three in eight of his 11 starts that year which included a third in the Puss n Boots Stakes at Fort Erie before winning the 1992 running of the G3 Niagara Handicap at Woodbine.
The succeeding year, Beau Fasa won the G3 King Edward Gold Cup Handicap at Woodbine Racetrack and was second in the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne Race Course in Chicago in 1993.
Waiting for the turf at Fort Erie Race Track, Beau Fasa’s first start of 1994 came in June when he was nosed out of a win in the Connaught Cup Stakes and followed that up with a third in G3 King Edward Gold Cup where he set the pressured pace for most of the race.
Then a road trip to his birth State proved successful when Beau Fasa went wire to wire in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Handicap at Penn National. He recorded one additional win the following year at Penn National in the Captain My Captain Stakes which would prove to be his last career win before his earned retirement in late 1996.
During our visit last July, Shirley recalled how Beau Fasa loved the racetrack life, especially being pampered and cared for, which continued at the hands of Shirley and her crew during his retirement years at Box Arrow Farm.
Early on in his retirement Beau Fasa was kept active as a riding horse however his temperamental behaviour would often thwart a rider’s plans by either dumping them or simply refusing to get on the van. In the later years he was loaned out as a companion horse at times however Shirley always ensured that Beau Fasa would always come back to her.
Despite the eventual loss of his teeth and a few age related aches and pains, Beau Fasa was resilient and full of life in his latter years.
I could easily see how this horse with such spirit brought such joy to Shirley and all who had the pleasure to know him.
Woodbine based trainer Gord Colbourne and Shirley Prosser remain great friends today with Gord training all of the Box Arrow Farm horses at the track.
Last year a 2YO Ontario homebred gelding, Sable Island (Stormy Atlantic) ignited the barn with 2 wins and a second in his four career starts in 2017.
Box Arrow Farm also purchases and claims horses to race and has had recent success last year with then 4 year-old Kentucky-bred filly, Daddy’s Great Bay (Scat Daddy) who won a $61,000 Allowance last September, one year after claiming her for $40,000 in 2016.