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So Much More Than Just A Horse

Published: February 28, 2020 3:55 pm ET

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Last May, Don Beatson was hoping to get a filly that would be competitive in the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots program. His purchase ended up being So Much More.

The longtime trainer who hails from Granton, Ont. (just east of Lucan and north of London) enjoyed his best season in the earnings column, thanks to the on-track success of pacing filly-turned-mare So Much More.

Bred by Doug MacPhee of New Haven, P.E.I., the Ontario-sired daughter of Big Jim - Ladysai was entered in the 2017 Atlantic Classic Yearling Sale. Her pedigree had some black type to it as her half-brother Dialamara had banked close to $250,000 while taking a mark of 1:50.1 in Ontario. The filly did not sell, as her reserve price was not attained. Perhaps that promise of so much more was always there.

MacPhee then placed the filly into the hands of trainer Tom Weatherbie in P.E.I. to begin her early lessons, and she showed definite potential in her freshman season. In nine starts, So Much More assembled a record of 4-4-0 and captured two stakes events. All four of her second-place finishes came to Magical Mistress, who was perfect that year in a 12-for-12 rookie season.

As a three-year-old, So Much More lived up to her name and won her first three sophomore starts. MacPhee listed her on the Standardbred Canada Horses For Sale Board, without a price, and the caveat of "serious inquiries only please."

Enter Don Beatson, who was serious about buying her. And he did, along with his son Ken and grandson Cole England, for $50,000. Suffice it to say that she's been worth every penny.

"I fully figured she would be at the top of the Grassroots," Beatson told Trot Insider. "And she was even better than I thought...I wasn't thinking broodmare, I don't play that game much, just whatever she was a racehorse.

"I guess we were sort of hoping she would be that good but you never know."

No stranger to buying racehorses from Canada's East coast, Beatson bought the filly without any sort of rapport with the trainer or the owner, and without any sort of background from the connections. Perhaps that's because there wasn't much to tell aside from the fact that she had some talent.

"Right away, I loved her. I couldn't find one fault. I knew she could probably go pretty fast so I had no worries actually. I didn't ever doubt it."

With each start, Beatson had less reason to worry. In her first eight starts, So Much More won six and finished second twice -- once in the Kin Pace Final after being interfered with in the first turn as the public choice, and the other in a OSS Gold division a half-length back of Powerful Chris.

Beatson tested the filly twice more in the OSS Gold series that summer but came to a crossroads: continue on in the Gold or race her in the Grassroots.

"After about two Grassroots starts we knew we could be in the Final anyway, so then we said we'd give the Gold a try and see how that worked. And it was OK, she was competitive -- probably as good as pretty much everything in there -- but we just decided to go with the Grassroots. It seemed like it would be a bit easier."

The post position gods didn't make those forays into the Gold series any easier, drawing the nine hole for miles at Rideau Carleton Raceway on August 25 and at Flamboro Downs on September 22 -- miles that would both go down as Canadian records.

"She had a legitimate shot at winning any one of those races. But that's racing for you," shrugged Beatson. "She paced in track record times in both of those miles.

"From that day, or from any day, she hasn't went a bad race as far as we're concerned."

After winning the OSS Grassroots Final on October 5, Beatson and his connections had no intention of shutting So Much More down, provided that she gave them the green light to race.

Don Beatson (third from L), Ken Beatson (fourth from L) and Cole England (fifth from L) with So Much More

"Why would I stop when she's at the very top?" questioned the trainer. "I never really contemplated stopping with her...maybe a week here and there."

So Much More rose through the conditioned ranks at Mohawk through the months of October and November, eventually landing in the Fillies & Mares Preferred Handicap Pace on November 15 where she finished third. A drop down the class ladder again for a few starts brought her back to the Preferred, where the sophomore pacing filly toppled her seasoned veteran foes with a 1:51.3 victory by a neck over favoured Kendall Seelster.

That race would be the 25th and final of her three-year-old year, to produce a summary of 15-3-2 with $227,347 in purse earnings. After a well-deserved rest of a few weeks, So Much More returned to the Preferred ranks in 2020 and finished third (with interference on her line) on January 4 before winning her first race as an older mare on January 10.

In her next start, So Much More and Youaremycandygirl were tasked with the tall order of facing male rivals in the Preferred Handicap, where she finished fourth to favoured Sintra. That effort was followed by a second-place finish in the Fillies & Mares Preferred and a win from post 10 against upper-conditioned company.

Her sixth start of the year was special, as she faced off against and defeated all rivals (male and female) in the $36,000 Preferred Pace on February 15.

Regardless of the trip or the driver, it seems So Much More personifies her moniker and performs efficiently and consistently. After a week off for a bit of a rest, Beatson has his prized pupil back in this Saturday (Feb. 29) in the Preferred. She's the 2-1 favourite in the field, with seven rivals set to face her and driver James MacDonald on the final card of February.

According to her trainer, her health and her heart help make her the special performer she is, and "she seems to really like doing it" as well.

"She's been a delight to us, it's amazing. You never really think you'll come across one like her."

Beatson says So Much More ranks right up there as one of the best horses he's ever been associated with, putting her along side the recently-retired Monster In Law. That iron horse just retired after turning 15 in 2020, and Beatson is hopeful that So Much More has so many more outings in store. The plan for 2020 doesn't involve travel outside of Ontario but it does involve open stakes competition, most notably the Milton and Roses Are Red at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Of course, with success at Canada's top level comes a fair amount of fame. And for Beatson, that means getting "quite a few" phone calls with offers to purchase the pacing mare at the forefront of his modest four-horse stable.

"I say that she's really not for sale," admitted Beatson. "They want to buy but right now we're not ever thinking about selling her. And the fun would be all gone if we sold her."

That fun and that feeling extends beyond what So Much More provides on paper. There's something magical about taking this trip with family, as Don's son Ken lives close to Orangeville (and not close to him) and his 15-year-old grandson Cole helps Don in the barn with his stable and with the stable star.

"He's helped me since he was 9 or 10, but it really is a thrill. He loves it....he's close by and he comes by all the time, and I appreciate every bit of it."

In talking to Beatson, it's abundantly clear that he truly does.

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