Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Jan. 18, 2024

January 18th, 2024

A good Thursday morning to you all! Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend and you're staying warm right now. I know Oaklawn has already cancelled the upcoming weekend, and Turfway isn’t running Friday or Saturday because of the cold. We’re even supposed to dip into the 30s on Sunday morning here in Tampa, which is crazy!

I’m very much looking forward to the Lecomte Day card coming up on Saturday. As a general rule, I enjoy the big days at Fair Grounds, and I think there are some interesting storylines on this card.

The Silverbulletday S. is for the three-year-old fillies, and it’s no surprise to see Steve Asmussen, Brad Cox, Kenny McPeek, and other big-name trainers with horses looking to gain points for the Kentucky Oaks (G1). But it is a little surprising to see an Oklahoma-bred like Miss Code West in there. The Remington shipper has been pegged at 9-2 on the morning line, so she clearly fits. Perfect from four career starts, she faces a big test leaving the cozy confines of Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

I really believe one of my favorite parts about racing is that a good horse can come from anywhere. And if you have a good horse, you can take them and run them pretty much anywhere. Of course, many of the best horses come from Kentucky, as it’s the epicenter of our industry in regards to breeding. But state-bred programs play such an important part in each racing ecosystem.

Oklahoma-breds compete for good money and are a big part of the racing at Remington, Will Rogers Downs, and Fair Meadows. And more than a few Oklahoma-breds have distinguished themselves against open company over the years. Clever Trevor, a Grade 1 winner who made more than $1.3 million back in the late '80s, captured the Remington Derby and finished second in the Arkansas Derby (G2) before running in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He went on to be second in the Travers (G1), as well.

Hall of Famer Lady’s Secret, the 1986 Horse of the Year, proved to be an all-time great in the filly and mare ranks, earning more than $3 million. Her 11 Grade 1 wins included the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) and Whitney (G1). Other noted state-breds include Kip Deville, Welder, and Caleb’s Posse. A good horse can come from Oklahoma or anywhere.

So all that said, I’m really excited to see what Miss Code West can do in her first try outside of Oklahoma. I’m also happy to see Floyd Wethey Jr. keep the mount. One of the frustrating parts of our game is it seems like so many of the best horses go to the top trainers and the top riders. And, of course, those people have earned their success. But it just seems like the upper echelon of both the riding and trainer standings is so difficult to break through. Often a horse runs well for a smaller rider and the second that they go to the big track to take on the tougher competition, the local rider gets left back home in exchange for the proven big name. I just like seeing lesser-known jockeys and trainers get their shot when a good horse comes along.

Wethey has had a very nice career. Riding since 2007, he was regularly around $1 million in purse earnings for many years. Recently, he’s been cracking $2 million, and he exceeded $3 million in purse earnings for the first time in 2023. He’s won many stakes but never a graded race. The Silverbulletday is not graded either, but the three-year-old filly series at Fair Grounds always garners some of the top divisional horses, and I’m sure this year will be no different.

So kudos to the connections of Miss Code West for taking a shot. For sticking with their rider and seeing what they really have. You never know unless you try.

Have a great week, everyone!