Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Jan. 11, 2024

January 11th, 2024

A good Thursday morning to you all! Hope everyone’s week is going well. Got through my week of COVID pretty uneventfully, which I’m thankful for, and it was good to get back to the races at Tampa this weekend. We start our three year-old race series weekend with the Gasparilla and Pasco S., and I’m super pumped for those races.

I wanted to write this weekend about inquiries and disqualifications. I’ve been pretty blah in terms of committing to a side on Category 1 or Category 2 rules over the years, in part because I still don’t know exactly the difference in specifics. Just a topic I never gave much attention to, and that’s on me for not educating myself. 

I had a group of friends come out to Tampa Bay Downs the other week and while sitting downstairs with them for a few minutes before the races, I was explaining some things about betting to them. I had maybe five minutes before I had to head back up to the booth, and I kept thinking, “What do I tell them in five minutes when even a solid basic understanding of horse racing betting is going to take hours!” I decided to tell them about the odds and how they work, and one friend said, “So, the worse odds, the higher they pay?” I nodded that essentially, yes, that’s the case.

There are so many things to teach new people who come to the races that I get that it can be overwhelming. I took a class in something totally foreign to me a couple months ago, and it was incredible how fast I got lost. I think about that a lot in relation to when we talk about concepts on my podcast that might be complex. But as Emily Gullikson said on my show this week, “people like puzzles. They like complex.” I agree.

So back to disqualifications and inquiries. I feel like I see people complaining about stewards' decisions on a very regular basis online. And that really has never changed, and will never change. Subjective decisions by stews will always have supporters and detractors, and the detractors will, of course, be the most vocal. Often rightfully so, I might add.

Watching the national championship game this past week in football, I was so excited to see my alma mater playing for the title. We (Washington) lost to Michigan, and we played kind of awful, but one thing a lot of folks on my side of the game were upset about were the penalties on us and the lack of penalties on them for what looked like similar infractions. I saw the no-calls, and it sucked. But one thing I don’t think these calls did was affect the final outcome of the game. In horse racing, disqualifications do just that, and I think it makes the penalty outcomes that much more severe.

In almost any team sport — football, basketball, hockey, etc. — there are fouls and infractions. Things that you get penalized with if you commit. Could be free throws for the other teams, yards moved back, or time in the penalty box and the other team having a one-man advantage. But none of those things cost the team a win. Directly, at least. Like, if I commit a foul in the first quarter of a hoops game, yeah, the other team gets two free throws. We end up losing by a point, and you could say my foul cost us the game. But nobody would actually think that, because every basket or missed opportunity could have cost us two points. 

In a horse race, if you’re called for a foul and the judges uphold it, no matter where in the race it happened, you’re going to get the victory or your earned placing taken away. And everyone who bet on you is going to be affected as well. The more I think about that in light of other sports, the crazier it seems to me — you lose the entire event and all that comes with it if you commit a foul. So to win a race and stay up, you must not commit any fouls. I can’t think of a single other sport where that is the case. 

Every sport has a system set up so that if a minor or even major violation occurs, there are penalties handed out. But you don’t just give the other team the game. Could you imagine if the Sixers beat the Nuggets and then after the fact the referees are like, “Sorry, guys, in the middle of the third quarter, Mr. Embiid fouled Mr. Jokic. Nuggets win.” I realize the two things are not the same, but I also think a lot of newer fans are going to see how we deal with fouls and how they can get the money taken out of their hands after thinking they won, and that must really stink.

I think I’m starting to become a Category 1 person.