12/21/2006 1:00AM

Untested, but not for long


Sooner or later, trainer Todd Beattie is going to have to find out whether Fabulous Strike is good enough to compete with the nation's best older sprinters. His Beyer Speed Figures say yes, but his best figures have come against lesser competition.

In his most recent start Nov. 21, Fabulous Strike was awarded a 115 Beyer for his 8 3/4-length romp in the Sophomore Sprint Championship at Mountaineer Race Track. Only three other 3-year-olds have earned a higher figure this year: Horse of the Year contender Bernardini (117), the unbeaten Discreet Cat (116), and Blue Grass Stakes winner Sinister Minister (116).

Beattie could have run the 3-year-old Fabulous Strike against older horses for the first time in the Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct on Dec. 17. Instead, Beattie has chosen a more conservative approach and will ship Fabulous Strike back to West Virginia for the $75,000 Christmas Stakes at Mountaineer on Tuesday night.

Beattie said he was reluctant to throw Fabulous Strike against older horses for the first time in a graded stakes. So Fabulous Strike will go against his elders in the Christmas over a track where he has already run well.

Fabulous Strike doesn't appear to be a one-race wonder. He earned a 108 Beyer for winning the Ziggy's Boy at Belmont Park in June and a 104 for finishing second to Diabolical in the Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

Beattie, 44, owns a barn at Penn National Race Course, where he operates a 70-horse stable. He has had a career year in 2006, winning 114 races and $1.69 million in purses while winning at a 31-percent rate.

Although he's based at Penn National, Beattie has recorded only about half of his victories there this season. He frequently ships and wins at Philadelphia Park, Laurel, Charles Town, and Monmouth.

Beattie has had some good stakes horses in the past half-dozen years, including Beau's Surprise, the Pennsylvania horse of the year in 2000; Fiesty Countess, a multiple-stakes-winning filly who won $75,000 races in Delaware and Maryland; and Oswayo, who gave Beattie his richest victory in the $71,000 Pennsylvania Futurity in 2001.

Fabulous Strike, however, already looks like Beattie's best ever after winning 5 of 9 starts and $184,125.

"I'm pretty sure he is," Beattie said. "And we haven't seen the best of him yet."

Fabulous Strike is a homebred son of Smart Strike - the sire of turf star English Channel - out of the mare Fabulous Find. He is owned by the Tea Party Stable of Walter Downey. Downey is perhaps best known for purchasing Say Florida Sandy, the multiple-stakes-winning sprinter who won 33 races and $2,085,048, to stand at stud in New York.

Downey also owns several mares that drop their foals at Xanthus Farm in Gettysburg, Pa.

Beattie, who has trained some of Downey's horses for about 10 years, said Downey usually gives him the babies that don't sell at auction. Fabulous Strike, however, was an exception to the rule.

"I saw him as a yearling, and he was already an extremely good-looking horse," Beattie said.

Beattie suggested that Downey hold onto Fabulous Strike rather than sell him.

"Let's take the pick of the litter this time," Beattie said he urged Downey.

The decision didn't look so smart when Fabulous Strike made his debut as a 2-year-old in December 2005 and didn't show a lick of speed in a maiden race at Tampa Bay Downs.

Beattie said he doesn't know what went wrong that day, because he wasn't training Fabulous Strike in Florida. Soon after Fabulous Strike was brought to Beattie, it became obvious the horse had talent.

"It took a little while to get him accustomed to our program," Beattie said. "But I knew he was the real deal."

Beattie wanted to take Fabulous Strike out of town, but instead ran him at Penn National in February after shipping restrictions were put in place following an outbreak of equine herpesvirus in Maryland. Fabulous Strike easily won his maiden, the first of three consecutive victories. He finished fourth - beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Songster - in his only attempt against graded stakes runners, going seven furlongs in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont.

Although six furlongs is clearly Fabulous Strike's best distance, Beattie said he is optimistic Fabulous Strike can go a bit longer.

"We just need to change his running style a little bit," Beattie said. "He'll go longer if we can get him to relax, and I think he'll do that because he's manageable."

Beattie said he has yet to map out a 2007 schedule for Fabulous Strike. Following the Christmas Stakes, he intends to give the horse the rest of the winter off and bring him back in the spring, possibly against graded company in New York, where Fabulous Strike already owns two minor stakes wins.

"I'm a 100 percent country boy, and I like to come home after we race out of town," Beattie said. "But we'd like to spend as much time as we can in New York."