Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem May 20, 2024

May 20th, 2024

A good Monday morning to you all! Writing today from Savannah, Georgia as I make my way back home from Baltimore and the Preakness weekend. All told, it was a lot of fun and something I’ll always remember. I’m going to recap the entire trip and experience on my Tuesday podcast, so listen in if you want my thoughts on attending racing’s second jewel.

As far as the race itself, I thought it was a good mix of exciting, perplexing, confusing, and ultimately fulfilling. Which, I suppose, most horse races should aim to have all those elements. What fun is it if everything happens exactly as planned? Well, I suppose it’s fun if it comes out the way we bet it. But you know what I mean.

At Thursday morning’s Alibi Breakfast, D. Wayne Lukas told the crowd, “We’re going to go to the front, nobody else is going to coast on the lead.” Now, he didn’t address Bob Baffert or his horse Imagination, but after Muth’s scratch I think everyone assumed that’s who he was referencing. I misread this race and his comments so poorly because I figured that meant Just Steel was going to go after the lead. Looking back at Seize the Grey’s past performances, he’s mostly come from off of the pace, but in sprints. He was quite close in his Pat Day (G2) win to a 22- and 44-second pace, which would easily have put him on the lead in the Preakness. Not to mention the fact that it was pretty well discussed after the Derby that Lukas didn’t necessarily want Just Steel — who I thought he was referencing — that close.

The other big factor I think that contributed to Seize the Grey’s win was the track itself. In the middle stages of the day, three straight dirt races went gate to wire over the muddy sealed track. When they finally opened up the track for Race 10, the Sir Barton S., a horse won from just off the pace. But it was the favorite, and it was a very close finish. But still, an off-the-pace winner. However, after that race it started raining a bit again, and they re-sealed the track for the Preakness. And wouldn’t you know it, gate to wire. I’m not sure how and why track profiles or biases come about, and I’m usually pretty leery on pronouncing biases in general, but it sure seemed like being on the lead in those sealed-track races was a good place to be — If you were by yourself, that is.

One of the cool parts of Seize the Grey’s story is the polar-opposite current career paths of his trainer and rider. You have 88-year-old D. Wayne Lukas, who’s won and done pretty much everything in the sport, winning another classic race. Right now, he’s on pace for his highest earnings year since 2000. While he’s never had a truly terrible year, for much of the last 10 years or so he’s been sitting at around $2 million in earnings and anywhere from 15 to 28 wins. We’re just shy of 40% of the way through this calendar year, and he’s already got 17 wins and just shy of $4 million in earnings. It’s a late career surge that, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have expected and at this point, he’s just adding to his legacy.

Jockey Jaime Torres, on the other hand, is only a couple of years removed from jockey school. He’s 25 years old and coming off a very strong Fair Grounds meet. He won his first graded stakes of his career just two weeks ago in the Pat Day Mile aboard Seize the Grey and just added a classic Grade 1 win to his mantle. He had a very strong first year as a rider and made the transition to journeyman with no problem. The sky’s the limit, and it’s exciting to see where this win will help catapult him to.

A memorable weekend for me, and I hope it was for you as well! Everyone have a great week!