Jason Beem's Thursday Thoughts for Mar. 21, 2024

March 21st, 2024

A good Thursday morning to you all! Excited for some Thursday thoughts to share with you from what’s been a busy week for me with some family in town. My mom and aunt came to visit for a few days and it’s been so fun to host them in my new home in Tampa Bay. On Wednesday they joined me at the races and it was fun to get to show them Tampa Bay Downs on what was a perfect spring day. Both my mom and my aunt are familiar enough with horse racing but neither would be by definition a fan. My dad went to the track usually twice a week when I was growing up, my mom has probably been 10 times in her whole life. 

Both of their initial reactions to coming to the track was how crowded it was for a Wednesday. It’s our one free admission day so we definitely get a lot of folks who come out for that reason. A lot of seniors live in the area and usually there’s a few buses from the various senior communities that will come out on Wednesdays. 

I don’t usually have many guests up in the booth for races like a lot of racecallers, but if you give birth to me, you get to come to the booth. Mom always sits right by me and watches me call when she comes out to the track and always says after each race “I couldn’t do that.” It gives me a lot of happiness to know she’s proud and it’s always an extra special day at the track when I get to have her with me. 

Another highlight of Wednesday at Tampa was getting to see Mike Manganello. Some of you might know that Mike won the Kentucky Derby back in 1970 on Dust Commander. But he also won six riding titles at Tampa Bay Downs back in the day so for him it was a bit of a homecoming to see lots of folks at the track. Mike and I actually crossed paths before at River Downs because when I worked there in 2006 and 2007, Mike was one of the stewards. 

Two quick Mike Manganello stories. The first one was on Kentucky Oaks Day in 2006 and he wasn’t in the stewards stand like normal. I asked the other steward, Herbie Clark, also a former rider, about Mike's whereabouts. “Oh he’s at Churchill Downs with all the Derby-winning jockeys.” I paused for a second, “Mike won the Kentucky Derby?” 

Herbie laughed and told me about Dust Commander. My racing history knowledge from before I was born is kind of pathetic for someone who’s been in the game as long as I have, so it was kind of crazy to find out Mike had won the most famous horse race once. 

The other one was later that first summer at River Downs, a co-worker did something kind of inappropriate to me at work. Nothing crazy but some hurt feelings because of it. Mike saw what the guy did and immediately went to the head guy at the track and told that what he did to me wasn’t cool and basically just stood up for me when he really didn’t have to. Always respected him a lot for doing that because he and I weren’t friends or anything, but he sure showed me some support. 

The racetrack is a place for friends and family and getting a random Wednesday to share with my family and see an old friend, well it made for a heck of a day.