Lehigh Valley

From robes to racing, local judge has a hoofed hobby

WIND GAP, Pa. - Most of the time, Judge Anthony Beltrami wears a robe and dispenses justice.

But after his day job's done, the guy known around the horse track just as "Tony", changes into riding clothes and dispenses 'kissing noises' to the horses.

For me, it's a break from my everyday life," he says, laughing.

Long before 2005, when Tony was elected a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Northampton County, he was a kid spending time at the horse track with his dad.

"He would take us out, my brothers and I," the judge tells us. "And I just loved it from the first time I saw my first race."

Tony's dad shared his love of the sport with just about anybody he could, including close friend Mohammad Ali.

In fact, he named his horse, Cassius Clay, after the boxing legend.

Tony would end up going to law school, but always in the back of his head, was the idea he'd find his way back to the track someday.

Five years ago, the track found him. A friend opened Wingate Farm in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, just down the road from his home, and the memories of his dad and the sport came racing back.

"Every time I had a day off I would come up here and ride as many horses as I could!' he says.

It took a lot of hard work, but Tony finally began racing.

Carmine Fusco, one of the owners of Wingate Farm tells us about Tony, "It always was a dream of his to drive, because his dad drove."

He adds, "He's got a little more history behind him than people know. He didn't just decide 'I'm going to drive on day,'" Carmine says.

He also talks about how proud Tony's dad was of him.

A short time after he passed away last September, Tony nabbed his first win.

"It was for his dad, you know?" Carmine says quietly.

"I see a lot of things that people don't see in terms of what's going on in society," the judge tells us, adding, "It's nice to just get out here on a morning, the sun's coming out, the birds are chirping, and just out with the horse alone."

"He's living the dream…he's living the dream. Some guys play golf, some guys go fishing," Carmine says of his friend. He adds, "He just wants to be on a race track."

And yes, being a judge in this sport is rare. It's not typical for a guy who answers to “Your Honor” all week to end it with horse manure on his shoes.

But out here, nobody judges, at least, not until the race starts.

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