Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Sept. 14, 2023
A good Thursday morning to you all! Writing to you today from Toronto, Ontario as I’m up here to watch the Woodbine Mile this weekend. I’ve been to Woodbine before, but never for one of their signature races. But earlier this week, I was able to go to a prestigious race. In fact I was able to attend my first ever Triple Crown event. The second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales S.
On Monday I visited Finger Lakes Racetrack, and it was my 72nd track visit, counting Thoroughbred, Harness, Quarter Horse, and Greyhound. In all those visits I’ve still never made it to an American Triple Crown event. When you work in horse racing, there’s a good chance you’re working on Kentucky Derby Day. I was able to go to a Thursday of Belmont week card back in 2019, but never the big day.
I got to Fort Erie well before the races started and sat in the simulcast area. They actually allow you to be in U.S. Dollar or Canadian Dollar, and you get paid in U.S. or Canadian depending on what you do. Fort Erie is as close to the border as you can get, and my phone spent much of the day alternating between US and Canadian carriers. While sitting in the simulcast section I witnessed a classic simulcast seat argument. Seating on big days in the OTB area is always important and both these guys insisted that they had reserved the seating and neither one were going to give in. Eventually the guy who sat there first got the seat and the guy who was the everyday regular was given a different table, albeit a tiny bit further back from the TVs.
The early part of the card featured some incredible stretch battles. I think three of the first five races were close photo finishes. The on track crowd was strong for a Tuesday, but it certainly skewed older which made sense for a midday weekday race. I did see one kid who was probably 12 there who reminded me of a young me. Tagging along with his dad and asking his dad questions about why a horse was scratched and if they would still run in the rain. It was adorable. And his question about the rain was a good one, cause holy moly did it rain. The middle parts of the card were conducted as it was pouring and the races came off of the grass.
Once the Prince of Wales finally came about the rain had stopped. I found my way to the paddock and stood with my buddy Tommy as the horses paraded by us. Mark Casse’s King’s Plate winner Paramount Prince was the favorite and looked incredible in the paddock. I walked down the stretch a bit to watch the big race. The gates popped open and they splashed by us with the favorite on the lead. Justin Stein made his move early with Velocitor and was able to just push by the Plate winner turning for home and slowly edged away for the win. Also a big shoutout to my friend and colleague Doug McPherson who was calling his second Prince of Wales stakes and did an outstanding job.
It was a fun race and down where I watched it from about the sixteenth pole, it was strangely quiet for a big race. I remember shortly before my first Tampa Bay Derby telling my boss I was nervous about the big race. She told me “it’s just another horse race, there’s just more money on the line.” I’ve tried to carry that with me whenever big races come about and watching that huge race from kind of a quiet spot, I had that same thought. It’s just a horse race. Albeit a special one with great history and a big purse, but a horse race nonetheless. I’m glad I was able to witness that little bit of history and look forward to hopefully seeing a little more this weekend at Woodbine.