Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Aug. 17, 2023

August 17th, 2023

A good Thursday morning to you all! I was very excited to get to speak with trainer Grant Forster on my podcast on Wednesday to talk about his win in the Longacres Mile. Grant is always a pleasure to talk to and certainly an easy trainer to root for. I remember being at the track when he won his first Longacres Mile in 2005 with No Giveaway and screaming that horse home at 60-1 (I hit the trifecta that day, one of my top five hits ever). So you can see why I’m maybe a little biased toward him and my love of No Giveaway.

One of the things we talked about during our conversation on air was how important that race was for Pacific Northwesterners like us. He’s from the Vancouver, BC area, and I’m from about six miles north of Emerald Downs in Kent, Washington. My first Mile was in 1990 when Snipledo went gate to wire at 6-1. Grant said in the interview that even as a Canadian, everyone up there wanted to win the Longacres Mile, in part because of the great history it has.

All races are special to somebody. Even the random $4,000 claimer on a Tuesday night can be the first race for a jockey, or the 'capper of a big score, or special for one of a thousand different reasons.

When Grant talked about the great history of the Longacres Mile, it definitely has that. But I think the true special-ness comes from the emotional connections to the race for many of us. I watched that 1990 rendition with my dad. He took me to Longacres all the time, and all these years later I still have strong memories of what different parts of that track looked and felt like. The track has been gone for over 30 years, and my dad’s been gone for over 20, so even while that race is now at Emerald Downs, it’s a link to the past for me and so many memories of childhood.

Tradition takes time to build. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about moving around the dates of Triple Crown races to better suit the modern game. Some people are open to the idea, hoping it would mean each leg of the Triple Crown would be the best race it possibly can. Many other people don’t want it to change because of tradition.

I was thinking about tradition a lot this week because of the Arlington Million (G1) making its first run in Virginia. Colonial Downs seemingly will be the home of that race for a while, and I do believe over time it will become more and more of a tradition here in Virginia. I think for a lot of fans, particularly those in Illinois, it will always feel like their race. And I understand that. Tradition just takes time to build.

The Kentucky Derby (G1) wasn’t always run at the 1 1/4-mile distance. The Belmont Stakes (G1) has been run at Aqueduct and even a few years ago was run at 1 1/8 miles. Things change, but I think we so often fight that, often justifiably. We as people value our traditions, and when things change it often doesn’t sit right with us. Believe me, if next year the Longacres Mile was run at 1 1/8 miles, I’d probably feel a bit irritated.

Recently, my alma mater left the Pac-12 conference that they’ve been in forever. I haven’t watched a college game of theirs in probably 10 years, yet for some reason I hated that they left the Pac-12. Just like I hated when the Pac-10 became the Pac-12. If I’d have been alive, I’d have hated when the Pac-8 became the Pac-10!

Every time there’s an update on Twitter, I hate the new update. But, of course, six months later when they do another update, I’m used to the one I hated six months before and want to keep it.

Things change and we change. Sometimes we’re lucky when our traditions don’t. I’m glad the Longacres Mile is still around and still at a mile. I’m bummed it’s not graded anymore. I hope it’s around in 10 years, and I hope I still care like I do now, and like I did when I was 10.

Everyone have a great weekend!