Feeling comfortable in a courtroom as well as on a race track, Northampton County Judge Anthony Beltrami guided his trotter, All Rise, to third place on New Year’s Eve in the feature race of 2023’s closing night at Harrah’s Philadelphia. The $15,000 AHDC race was the final event in the Fall Trotting Series. Judge Beltrami divides his time between the court room and the area’s harness tracks where he regularly competes in amateur harness races.
Last year, the local AHDC, Amateur Harness Driving Club, held races at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, and Harrah’s Philadelphia. Amateur races help fill the regular racing cards at these tracks, and amateur drivers generously donate their earnings to charities through their driving clubs. These drivers give back to the community through donations that help cancer patients, handicapped children, horse rescues, and race horse retirement programs. Their contributions help save retired race horses and help fund sanctuaries where horses can live out the rest of their lives.
Growing up in coal country near Hazleton, PA, Judge Beltrami got the racing bug as a child while visiting the local race track, Pocono Downs, with his late father, Louis, who owned and raced harness horses. Judge Beltrami wanted to be a trainer and driver after he graduated from Penn State, and he worked for the late Earl Beal during the summers. He changed his mind after his father encouraged him to go to law school like his brothers. “My father said I should have something to fall back on if things don’t work out with the horses, so I went to Touro Law School in Long Island, New York. I did well in school, and after I graduated, I was hired as a law clerk for now retired Judge Robert Freedberg of Northampton County. I’m glad I chose the path I did,” explained Beltrami. After clerking for Judge Freedberg, Beltrami opened his own law practice and focused on building his practice and raising a family. “I was mainly involved in the ownership side of horses during that time. I owned some horses with friends, but I was not hands on then because I was concentrating on my career,” said Beltrami. After a few years as an assistant public defender and an assistant district attorney, in 2005, Beltrami was elected to a ten year term as judge in Northampton County. In 2015, he ran for retention and won, and his term expires in 2025.
“In 2012, my friend and mentor Carmine Fusco opened the training center, Wingate Farm which is about twelve miles from my house. You know how it is once horses are in your blood, they’re in it to stay. I started jogging horses whenever I had time, and in 2014, I got my trainers and drivers license and started racing in amateur races. My racing career started slowly, and I had my first win in 2017. Things were picking up in 2019, and then in 2020, COVID hit, and my friend Carmine Fusco was the first documented COVID death in PA. That hit me hard,” said Beltrami.
“The year 2022 was a great year for me. I won thirty six races,” said Beltrami. “As a judge, I see the worst of the worst, and I handle cases from adoptions to murder cases. Horse racing helps me both mentally and physically relieve stress. Racing is physically demanding too, so it keeps me fit. My job is a stressful one, and racing is a pleasure for me,” explained Beltrami. In 2022, Judge Beltrami was voted U.S. Amateur Driver of the Year by USHWA, the United States Harness Writer’s Association, and he was honored at their annual awards ceremony in Florida.
“This past July, I was selected to go to Italy by the North American Amateur Driving Association to compete against top Italian drivers. My wife Gina came along, and I had a win and a second,” said Beltrami. Beltrami finished out 2023 with thirty wins, twenty-two seconds, and twenty-nine thirds out of two hundred one starts. He won races at Yonkers, Freehold, and Harrah’s Philadelphia, and he looks forward to the 2024 season. “My term ends in 2025, and I think I’ll become a senior judge so I’ll have more time to spend with the horses. One of the great side benefits of amateur racing is that we donate to charities. It all adds up to a substantial amount that amateur drivers contribute and give back to help those in need. I have a great life, and I love racing, and I’m living my dream,” said Judge Beltrami.