‘100 Percent Country Boy’ Savors Graded Win at Belmont

By Chelsea Hackbarth Courtesy of Paulick Report (July 5, 2020) – Last Saturday, June 27, trainer Todd Beattie sent out his first graded stakes winner since 2014 when Victim of Love upset the Grade 3 Vagrancy at odds of 27-1. Whileher victory may have been a surprise to the bettors, Beattie has long believed that the 4-year-old daughter of Speightstown had the talent to play on the big stage.

“She’s really just a hard-trying filly, that’s the biggest thing you can take your hat off to her,” Beattie said. “She’s a late foal (May 27), so she’s been playing catch up a little bit, but her age isn’t making such a difference right now. She’s been steadily getting a little better, and I can see things where her maturity is really helping her.”

Usually, Beattie prefers to start his own runners as 2-year-olds, doing the groundwork himself and giving his wife, Amanda, a leg up for the babies’ first rides. One of his most famous runners was Taris, whom he saddled for a nine-length triumph in the 2014 G2 Raven Run at Keeneland before selling her privately to Coolmore. The mare would later win the Grade 1 Distaff at Churchill Downs in 2016.

Conversely, Victim of Love was purchased at Keeneland as a yearling by Tom Stull’s Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. The filly began her career in New Mexico, breaking broke her maiden in her third start by 11 3/4 lengths when conditioned by Henry Dominguez. She won the listed Island Fashion Stakes in her next start, in February of 2019, but after finishing off the board in her next two outings, Stull decided to make
a change.

“I do a lot of work with Tommy Town, I’m kind of their outlet out here on the East Coast,” explained Beattie. “They wanted to send her here because there would be some more opportunities, and the competition wouldn’t be quite as tough as in their California base.

We’ve been figuring her out and what distance suits her. Her very best might be that middle distance, 6 1/2 to seven furlongs, and obviously the wet track didn’t hurt her, but she can run on a dry track too.”

From his private barn at Penn National, Beattie slowly began teaching Victim of Love to get into her races a little earlier. She won an allowance race at Laurel in October, and two starts later captured the listed What A Summer Stakes at the Maryland oval.

In the Vagrancy coming off a three-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic, Victim of Love broke a bit slowly. She was sent up into the race, then took over at the head of the lane and pulled away to win by 1 3/4 lengths under jockey Jose Lezcano.

“The trainer [Todd Beattie] told me to break and try to keep her busy,” Lezcano said. “She broke a little bit behind, but with a tap on the shoulder, she jumped right there on the bridle. When I asked her, she really took off. My filly kept going the whole way around and never stopped. She gave me everything she had.”

The filly’s success suggests she appreciates the quiet, laid-back atmosphere of Beattie’s private barn at Penn National.

“I’m 100 percent country boy,” Beattie said. “I’ve never lived in the city, but I always felt blessed because I get to see it in my rearview mirror when I’m leaving. I live on a mountain and I have a small farm, about 15 minutes away from the racetrack, so I can train on the track and come and go as I please. A guy that really likes the countryside appreciates that kind of lifestyle.”

Born and raised in Antigo, Wisc., the same hometown as Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Beattie learned to appreciate Quarter Horses as well. He doesn’t train them to race, however. Instead, he and his wife enjoy competing in cutting horse shows, and they use the Quarter Horses as ponies at the track to keep them fit during the week.

“The nice part about training horses at the track is that I always ride a pony and watch the horses train,” Beattie explained. “It works out good that I don’t have to go work my cutting horses when it’s real hot in the afternoons!”

The entire Beattie family is involved in the horse industry, as well. Of six children, five are full-time with horses, and the sixth enjoys riding cutting horses after her day job. Beattie’s sister, Holley, is married to 2-year-old trainer Bryan Rice, and the couple founded Woodside Ranch in Florida. They’ve developed racehorses like millionaires Hollywood Wildcat and War Chant, and more recently Breeders’ Cup Champion Storm the Court, among many others.

After living in Wisconsin during the winters for his entire childhood, Beattie was quick to follow his brothers and sisters to Pennsylvania for year-round racing. Like his family, he particularly enjoys the early stages of training, from the first ride through the first race on the track.

The trainer has saddled over 1,700 winners, but Victim of Love was just Beattie’s eighth graded stakes victory. His best horse was millionaire and Grade 1 winner Fabulous Strike.

“I really like to watch the young horses progress, and we start right from scratch,” Beattie explained. “We’ll have unbroke horses and I like to develop them and see them get to the next stage. In the past I’ve had 60-80 horses, and I ended up being a business manager rather than a horse trainer. I prefer to do the training myself, so I try to keep my numbers down within reason, so that way I can have a little bit of a life.”

Of course, coronavirus has made that life look quite a bit different over the past several months. Pennsylvania was one of the last states to get horse events started again, and Beattie is grateful to be able to resume more normal operations. He and his wife have been to three cutting horse shows in the past month, and they’ve started shipping horses around to run once again.

“Who would have imagined this would have happened in our lifetime?” Beattie said of the pandemic. “It’s been really tough trying to hold on, and you’re trying to manage your horses. Yeah, you’re training them, but you don’t have a target you’re aiming for, so you try to maintain a little conditioning, but you don’t want to tighten them down. Now we feel a little better about getting our horses ready.”