Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Feb. 12, 2024

February 12th, 2024

A good Monday morning to you all! Hope everyone had a good weekend whether watching racing or the big football game on Sunday. I’m actually watching the game as I type this, and it’s funny to follow my timeline during this game, especially since sports betting has gone wide. Now I follow mostly people who are interested in gambling and horse racing, but my timeline was full of people discussing their bets and thoughts on bets as opposed to actual things going on with the game. I talk a lot about how I wish we as an industry had more intelligent discussions on betting more regularly instead of just focusing on the “sport side” of things, and this just kind of reinforced that belief.

So with that said, let me talk about the sport side of things... I really enjoyed the Saturday at Tampa, as we had incredible weather and a great crowd on track. I’ve said it before on here, but having a good crowd on track makes such a huge difference in how I feel about a day at the races. Funny thing is, as a patron, I like it less crowded. But as an announcer, give me a packed house every time.

Big days tend to be most stressful before they get started. It’s all the extra pre-race stuff and anticipatory nerves beforehand that I think are toughest. But once the races get started, it tends to move fast, and that’s when the fun starts. I don’t love big races because they tend to be so nerve-wracking for me, but as I get older I think I’m enjoying them a bit more and putting the nerves aside as best as possible. This year, I was super nervous for the Suncoast S. Life Talk broke a little bit slow and when she got to the top of the stretch, she just had no punch and finished last. She was 2-5 and certainly the key anchor for many people’s early Pick 5s and Pick 4s and while it’s just one loss, it certainly was a bad one.

To me, the most fun race of the day was the Pelican S., which saw Sibelius score for the second straight year. That race on paper looked as though it was going to be an insane early pace and they didn’t disappoint, as they went sub-44 seconds to the half mile. Sibelius was parked wide and honestly looked a little flat at the top of the lane, but he leveled off well and was able to catch the early leaders. Last year, his path to winning the Dubai Sprint was winning the Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream and then taking the Pelican here. So far, he’s won the first two legs of that path and wouldn’t it be something if he could pull it off two years in a row.

No More Time ended up going off as the favorite in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and with a lot of the talk about him before the race, I was figuring he was going to be among the top choices. Overall, I didn’t think the race was all that much from a Kentucky Derby-talent standpoint, but I did think it was a super-interesting betting race. I ended up touting West Saratoga as my top pick, and I was astonished he was 30-1 as they went into the gate. Turning for home I thought he might win, but No More Time was just too much. The race didn’t come back all that fast, and No More Time is going to have to move forward in his next start to contend and continue on to Kentucky. But this past Saturday was just his fourth career start. There’s no reason he couldn’t take a move forward off of this effort. Seeing as his two wins have come on or very near the lead, I have to think that’s the plan with him going forward, provided he breaks well.

So now we get three-and-a-half weeks of regular racing at Tampa Bay Downs before Tampa Bay Derby day on March 9. Hope we see the top few from the Sam F. Davis and some new faces as well. Each year I’ve been here, we’ve had a full gate so hopefully that trend continues. Regardless of top-end quality, I want to see big fields in all these preps.