Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Aug. 11, 2022
A good Thursday to you all! So coming up this weekend is maybe my favorite race of the year. I’ll caveat that and say it’s my favorite race of the year as a fan because I don’t want my bosses thinking I don’t love our signature races. I’ve been watching the Longacres Mile since I was a little kid, and I’ve been on track for the Mile seven times by my count - three at old Longacres and four at Emerald Downs. The Longacres Mile was actually run at Yakima Meadows for three years after Longacres closed and before Emerald Downs opened up.
This year’s race drew a full field of 12, including last year’s champion Background. Background is owned by Bob Rondeau who was the longtime sports announcer for my alma mater, the University of Washington Huskies. The race is filled with lots of local hopefuls which to me makes it more fun, just cause this race means so much for us Washingtonians.
So all that being said, here are a few of my favorite Longacres Mile memories.
Maybe my favorite horse of all time, Captain Condo, was running in this one. The big gray sat far back and made his move but was unable to catch Louis Cyphre and Gary Stevens. It was a monumental win for Gary Stevens as it was his first Longacres Mile win. Gary grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and his storied career really was kickstarted early on at Longacres and Portland Meadows. Local boy done good!
No Giveaway from well off the pace to score a huge 60-1 upset win. The Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs had always played towards speed. The first nine runnings were all won by horses who were on or just off the lead. But the undercard in 2005 was featuring horses coming from off of the pace. Sharp handicapper that I was in 2005, I picked up on that and boxed a bunch of horses including some closers like No Giveaway. The trifecta hit and paid like $4,950, just a few dollars below the tax withholding line! I’ll never forget the next race my buddy Ben and I had a horse in and Juan Gutierrez was riding him (Stately Jack Flash was the horse’s name). Juan came into the paddock after winning the Mile and we did the Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy“ thing. Juan said “no no no, I am the same man!”
Wasserman was such a big local favorite, and his win in the 2008 Longacres Mile remains the loudest I’ve ever heard Emerald Downs. People were going crazy and when he came back to the winner’s circle, the ovation was unreal. Jennifer Whitaker became the first and only female jockey to win the Mile that year, and it’s one of my favorite calls ever from the great Robert Geller.
This was my least favorite Longacres Mile because I got heat stroke. I was doing some hosting work for Emerald, and they made us wear tuxedos all day. It was super hot and by the time the Mile came around, I was out of gas and had to watch the race from the nurse’s station while getting IV fluids. Assessment won the race, but I'm not including the replay because I hate that race.
This was a thrilling race with Northwest native Mark Glatt sending out Law Abidin Citizen to the win. But the crazy part of this race was that at 10 minutes to post when they came onto the track, announcer Tom Harris’ microphone was working fine as he did the post parade. When he went to announce the two-minute warning, his headset wasn’t working! No audio! So the great Joe Withee, who has been Emerald’s TV host and handicapper since all the way back at Longacres, took over and called the race from down on the ground level! He had a handheld mic and just called it off the screen and did an amazing job without even being able to memorize the silks. A truly unreal Longacres Mile moment.
Have a great 2022 Longacres Mile!