by Melissa Keith
One of the rarest animals in harness racing is the pacing mare who takes on and beats male rivals in the top class at a country’s top track. Woodbine Mohawk Park is that top track for Canada. So Much More (p, 5, 1:49.2s; $937,843) is that rare animal.
“We’re having quite a ride with her,” said co-owner Kenn Beatson, a few days after the 6-year-old mare’s latest victory in the Dec. 10 preferred. It was also fellow owner/trainer Don Beaton’s 81st birthday, giving the three-man stable something extra to celebrate.
“My dad’s been doing this a long, long time, but to be 81 and still spry and doing what he loves, having a great time and having a great horse as well, it’s pretty awesome for him,” Kenn told HRU. “We’re just a small stable, a little family stable. It’s really just the three of us who work on her: Cole and my dad [Don Beatson] and myself. Cole is my little sister’s son, my nephew.”
On the 2022 Breeders Crown nights at Mohawk, he said Team So Much More stood out: “You look down the row in the paddock and you’ve got the big stables like Burke and Takter and Brett Pelling, and then you’ve got our little stable.”
But success isn’t new to the Beatson family.
“This is going back to the late 1960s,” said Kenn. “My dad was interested in horse racing – he’d grown up on a farm in Granton, Ontario, where he still lives. He was going to the track a lot, just to watch the races at London, and then he just started fooling around with them a little bit. Eventually, he got one and was just pretty much self-taught – he figured it out. He had another job, but then he started getting into the horses a little bit more. He eventually quit his other job and started doing it [racing] full time.”
Kenn said he “kind of grew up my entire life under a horse.
“At the home farm where we lived, we have a little half-mile track there and a barn, and growing up, that was all I ever really knew, and we raced at all the little tracks around, Goderich and so many tracks, some that aren’t even around anymore: Elmira, Woodstock, Dresden, Windsor, London, and Clinton.”
Beatson horses raced at Greenwood and Mohawk when good enough, occasionally venturing stateside to Michigan’s Hazel Park. Kenn obtained his driving license in his early 20s, but didn’t remain a full-time participant in the sport.
“I had a lot of other interests so I actually went off and started working full-time in the corporate world, which I still do, but I spend all my spare time with the horses.”
Don Beaton’s stable fluctuated in numbers over the years.
“He had a public stable at one time,” said Kenn. “I went to the University of Guelph and studied animal science, but then after I graduated, we ran the stable together for a while. We might’ve got up to eight or nine [horses] at one point, but he’s cut back… We were back to just one and just had So Much More for a little bit there. Now we also have one young filly [Tymal Spectrum], so we have two that are racing. In the barn, we also have our stable pony and Monster in Law [p, 6, 1:50.3s; $476,728], who’s retired now. He was a great horse for us. He raced until he was 15 and made half a million.
“Our stable has had some really nice horses over the years, we had three horses before So Much More that won 50 races – that’s an accomplishment. A lot of people probably don’t realize that.”
So Much More is currently in a dead-heat for second winningest horse in North America this year, with a 16-for-34 record in top-caliber competition, largely at Mohawk. She raced herself out of the fillies and mares preferred and into taking on males in her last two Saturday night starts.
“She’s actually won that class [WMP mares preferred/open] the last nine times she was in it,’’ said Kenn.
“We knew she’s good and we thought she could go with them, but we were surprised she was the favorite in there; she had just got beat by Sintra the week before. There were four millionaires in the race. There was American History, who’s not on his form right now, but he’s a former Breeders Crown winner; Sintra; Desperate Man… The field was loaded, and then she went out there and raced like she should be the 6-5 favorite.
“She’s won so many races, but it still has the same level of excitement as the first one. It’s an adrenaline rush every time.”
What’s next for So Much More, who is a strong contender to repeat her 2020 title as O’Brien Older Pacing Mare of the Year?
“We’ve been talking about the plan, and we’re still trying to figure it out,” said the younger Beatson. “We basically think that we would like to give her a bit of a rest, but we probably won’t give her a long stretch of time off. She races great in the winter. What we’ll probably do is give her a week or two off in the winter, here and there, but not shut her down. If the weather gets real bad and the tracks get snowy, we might even give her three weeks off, but probably no more than that… We’re going to take it week by week and see.
“When she’s so good, we always come back and say, ‘Why give her a break now? She just keeps getting stronger.’ She’s at her very best. The horse will always tell you if they need time off – she’s not telling us that. She’s basically saying the opposite.”
So Much More did not win the 2022 Breeders Crown on home turf, but came impressively close in her elimination and the final.
“It was so exciting watching that [Breeders Crown elim] stretch drive,” Kenn said. “We thought she maybe got there. It was so close at the wire, you could barely tell. They [Test of Faith and So Much More] were millimeters apart, it felt like. That was extremely exciting… but also the Milton elimination was, for me, one of the most exciting ones of the year. That was where she went out and cut the mile, went her mile in :48.3, and finished three across the track with Mikala and Test of Faith, and was right there with them. That was huge.”
He added that broodmare life is definitely not in So Much More’s immediate future.
“So many people have asked us, ‘Well, are you going to breed her?’ I guess we probably will, when she’s done racing, but she just keeps getting better as a racehorse. Why shut her down?” He also ruled out ET, due to the many unknowns of embryo transfer’s effects on mares who remain in competition.
While racing against top male pacers is often frustrating for mares and their connections, the Beatson family and So Much More have had a different experience.
“You look at her in the races and she almost always looks like she’s the shortest horse out there,” said Kenn. “Sintra’s actually not a very tall horse either, but especially when she’s racing against the boys, you see they’re so much bigger than her. But her heart is just as big.
“Her mark is :49.2, which is very fast for a mare, but she’s certainly paced faster than that a few times. At Mohawk, you don’t get that many chances to go that fast, just because you kind of need a deep field to lay down some pretty good fractions to get that type of a mile. A lot of people have told us we should try racing her at some point in her life at Meadowlands, because most people think that it’s at least a second faster than Mohawk, and you might get in a race that had the fractions to give you a chance to get a mile like that. Maybe we will someday – we’ll see.”
The Crown and a sub-1:49 mark eluded So Much More last season.
“We had her entered in the Breeders Crown in 2021, and she was in the final, she had drawn the #3 hole, which was a great post position, and it was in a field where we thought she could have won that day, but she got sick and we had scratch her at the last minute… so we kind of lost an opportunity there.”
Kenn said he expected to keep her eligible to the 2023 Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park, as well as the Roses Are Red and Milton Stakes for pacing mares at Mohawk.
Among her open/preferred level wins to date, Kenn said four of the 36 were over horses and geldings, “so those 4 are all special.
“If you go back to her very first one, it was also special, because she did it as a 3-year-old filly in December 2019. How many fillies ever even race in a fillies and mares preferred, let alone win one? She went her last quarter in :25.4; she came first-up and just wore down the favorite, Kendall Seelster, who was the reigning best mare at that time. So that was her first-ever preferred. That was an incredible race. It was only just shortly after that, in February 2020… She wasn’t even really 4 based on her birthdate, and she raced against the boys in an open/preferred and won, sitting last the whole way and circling them in the stretch on a snowy night.”
What sets So Much More apart in her capabilities? The Beatsons haven’t sought out distaff races for her at other tracks, opting to keep her in the Mohawk preferred. Isn’t it tough on a mare?
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that exact same thing,” said Kenn. “I think that there is an element of truth to that: I think a lot of mares do struggle racing against fast boys, especially at the higher levels, because racing against fast boys, they’re usually big, strong horses as well, and they’ve got a lot of depth. It’s one thing to be able to go a mile in around 1:50; it’s another to be able to do it sitting on the outside or having to do it all in the last three-eighths or something like that. It’s a different thing from just going out there and cutting a mile in 1:50 and not having anybody around you…You have to be able to do it the tough way. She doesn’t seem to mind it.
“I know sometimes James [MacDonald] has come in after driving her against the boys, saying it might not look a lot different, but he knows that it’s tougher out there. Like two starts ago when she finished second to Sintra, the track was a little deeper that day – I think the track was even rated one second off, even though it was a clean, fast night…She was struggling to keep up, whereas the other horses like Wheels On Fire and Carbine are so big. Their feet are twice as big, so they can handle going through that muck a little bit better. But it doesn’t seem to wear on her one bit.”
Her success seems to come down to a competitive mindset that matches her small but powerful physique.
“She just has a heart unlike any horse I’ve seen. She thrives on looking other horses in the eye and getting up beside them and saying, ‘Let’s fight – let’s do this,’’” said Kenn. “It’s not an ideal situation, but it doesn’t bother her. Even when you warm her up, if there’s nobody around and then she spots a horse that’s say an eighth of a mile in front of her, she locks in and all she wants to do is catch it. She won’t stop until you pretty much let her catch up to it.
“At the track, she locks into a zone, with her game face on, and it’s all business. At home, especially turned out in the field, she loves to play and roll. She always has her ears up and she’s friendly, and she’s a pet. But at the track, she’s all business.”
Famously purchased off Standardbred Canada’s Horses for Sale board for a negotiated $50,000, So Much More has been a catalyst for a friendship between her PEI breeder and current connections.
“We didn’t know Doug MacPhee at all at the time, but we’ve gotten to know him and his family really well because they’re her biggest fans in the world,” said Kenn. “He came out to visit her at our farm here in Ontario this summer, and he came up for the Breeders Crown final. We talk to him online all the time. We’ve become good friends.
“He still has her mother, Ladysai, who he breeds every year. He’s just really thrilled with the way things turned out, because she was his little baby and he wanted her to go to a good home and have a great career racing.”
Maturity has helped So Much More step up her already-strong game in 2022.
“I think its general knowledge that a horse grows until maybe they’re about 5,” said her 51-year-old co-owner. “She really grew throughout this year, even, which is partially why she’s continued to get better–because she was always a little bit on the small side, and she’s still not tall, but she really filled out in her back end this year.
“So many of them get retired when they’re 3, 4, 5 and they haven’t even reached their potential yet, in my opinion. She’s proof of that. She’s just getting better and setting up to have a great 7-year-old season.”
If HRU readers happen to see a quick-moving free-legged pacer dashing along an unpaved road in Granton, ON this winter, it could be the famous mare, in line to a Beatson family member.
“When they get too much snow, she trains just going up and down the gravel road. A horse of her caliber and that’s where she trains!” said Kenn, laughing. “It’s a rural road, there’s not much traffic, and you know your neighbors.”