Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem June 17, 2024

June 17th, 2024

A good Monday morning to you all! I feel like I write this same column every Father’s Day, but I kind of don’t care. I think for many of us, our love and bonds with horse racing come directly from and through our dads. There are memories and stories and quality time spent that it’s impossible to think of horse racing without thinking of our dads. I always joke on my podcast that 95% of our guests say they got into racing because their dad or mom or grandparent took them to the track. So all we have to do to market is get people to bring out their kids. Boom, just solved that issue.

My dad’s birthday is always around Father’s Day, so these few days on the calendar always make me think of him. He would have been 70 this year, and that is crazy to think about since we lost him at age 47. I feel like when someone passes we often remember them mostly from the age they were when they died. So to think of my dad as an older man, it’s just hard to process in my head.

The best memories of my dad from the track were from my younger years at Longacres. We used to generally go one weeknight and one weekend card, and I loved it from the start. I’d whip my leg as we walked in and have little races in my imagination with him as we strolled through the parking lot. My dad always parked in the free parking area to avoid the $2 charge of the closer-up parking, so it was always a bit of a hike. But when I think of memories from my first 10 years of life, the ones I have that are somewhat clear are usually of being at Longacres with my dad or playing baseball with him. 

Longaces closed in 1992, but those walks in the parking lot, going through the program and circling all the first-time Lasix runners for him, sitting on his shoulders petting the ponies, I remember all those. I cherish those memories more than almost anything.

What’s interesting, though, is I don’t recall how it was that my dad got into horse racing. I know for a fact my grandparents would have never gone to the track or ever gambled a dollar. However he found it, though, I’m so glad he passed it on to me. I used to just barrage him with questions about horses and jockeys and handicapping, and he always answered them. They used to offer a special in the Longacres program for hotel, program, and breakfast at Yakima Meadows for $39 if you drove over for a weekend. Those weekend’s were some of my favorites. Racing road trips are the best.

I was fortunate after my dad passed to have several father figures in my life. One of them was a man named Dave Martin who owned horses for years at Longacres and Emerald Downs. Dave was a successful attorney and owned horses with a friend of mine who trained. I basically got to know him through meeting in the paddock at Emerald. Eventually he’d bring me back to the barns to meet his horses, and over the years we developed a wonderful friendship.

When I started calling races and left home, he’d always check in on me and tell me how his horses were doing. In 2011 or so, I got to call a couple of races at Emerald Downs one evening. Dave was battling cancer and was home resting. He didn’t know I was going to call, and he said he was waking up from a nap and heard my voice on the television. He called me to tell me that when he woke up and heard me, he was worried he’d slept all the way until Portland Meadows started. 

Dave passed away in 2012. One of Dave’s horses that he loved was named “Little Cutie,” and Dave had this hilarious way of saying such a sweet name with such a serious tone. So any time I get to call a horse with “cutie” in the name, I always try to say it like him during the race.

I hope you had a great Father’s Day, whether it was with your dad or just remembering him. I’ve never been a religious person, but my spirituality when it comes to those who have passed on comes from my knowledge that they still live within us — Within our memories of them and the times and things we shared together. I can still hear my dad’s voice. I can still visualize his hands and his penmanship; how he X’d out a horse’s name in the program when it scratched. As I said on his birthday, he’s not gone. He’s in my heart, right where he’s always been.