Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Aug. 10, 2023
A good Thursday morning to you all! Arlington Million Day card here at Colonial Downs has been drawn and getting ready for the big day. It was looking like we’d maybe have seven or eight for the Million coming into entry day, but we ended up with a good size field of 11 runners that look pretty evenly matched. Excited to see how all that plays out.
Also this weekend is the Longacres Mile, which I always unabashedly say is my favorite race in the world. I grew up going to the Mile with my dad at Longacres and have watched several of them in person over the years. It’s a race with a really great history and drew a field of 10 this year. It’ll be run Sunday evening at Emerald Downs, and I’m excited to see another chapter added to the rich Northwest racing history.
So while those two events and racing from Saratoga and Del Mar will undoubtedly be the centers of the racing world over the weekend, I wanted to write about one of the smaller racing events happening in the United States this weekend. I’ve written before about how much I love fair racing, and this weekend is the annual Tillamook Fair in Tillamook, Oregon.
Tillamook is most known for the Tillamook Cheese factory that’s based there, and I feel like that company has grown large enough that people from all over the U.S. know about it. I even saw some of their ice cream in the grocery store here in Richmond, Virginia, last week. Well all that good cheese and ice cream come from Tillamook, a tiny little town near the Oregon coast. And this weekend they’re hosting a four-day race meet from Wednesday through Saturday.
I’ve had the good pleasure to visit the Tillamook Fair on a couple of occasions, and let me tell you, it is a blast. First of all, with Tillamook being close to the water, the temperatures are always super pleasant. Horses from Oregon generally compete and run for $5,000 purses, and many horses will make two starts during the week.
One of the cool things that’s done is every horse who enters a race, their connections get a brick of Tillamook cheese. Ms. Tillamook literally goes around and sets the cheese on top of the horse’s stall in the paddock for each race. See the picture below for reference.
They also do the annual Pig N Ford races where drivers do a lap around the track in their old Ford cars, pick up a pig and put in the front seat, then do another lap. It’s a weird tradition but a tradition nonetheless.
I’ve called exactly one race at the Tillamook Fair, and I weirdly still have memories of it. There’s a “press box” of sorts at the top of the grandstand, and on the same platform stand the stewards, the announcer, the camera guy, and the placing judge. It’s weird calling a race and having the stewards talk about the race literally a foot from you, but that was the setup at Tillamook. I don’t remember how well I called the race but I do remember afterwards sitting in the grandstand and the guy in front of me telling his buddy, “They had the big city racecaller do the last race.” It took everything I had not to laugh at that comment. Portland Meadows, the pinnacle of racecalling!
Tillamook is a great time, as are so many of the tiny tracks that still exist around this country. Our game can be great at any level, and some of the most fun days I’ve spent at the races came at small fairs like this where the handle is maybe $20,000 for the whole day. I think Tillamook did $22,000 on their opening card yesterday. So best of luck to everyone this weekend whether you’re betting on the Arlington Million or a claimer at Tillamook!