Jason Beem's Thursday Column for February 10, 2022
Greetings all! Happy to be back with you for the Thursday Column.
We will be doing short interviews for this column quite regularly in addition to pieces like last week’s where I talked about calling photo finishes. But my goal is for the interviews to be the primary Thursday Column feature.
So I’m thrilled today to have truly one of my best friends, not just in racing, but in life in general, Jessica Paquette joining me. I’ve known Jess for many years and last Summer at Colonial Downs was our first real chance to work together.
One thing that instantly became noticeable was how she used breeding as a base to some of her handicapping, especially when it came to younger horses and grass racing.
One of my new year’s resolutions for 2022 was to learn more about breeding and how it can be used as a handicapping tool. And by learn more, I mean learn anything. Because it’s truly something I know nothing about and don’t use at all in my racing analysis. So I figured Jess would be someone good to come on and answer some of my basic questions about breeding.
Jason Beem: First of all, how are you? You’re one of my closest friends, so it feels odd asking you questions in a written format instead of just calling you.
Jessica Paquette: I'm fine. (JOKE!) *Side note, she answers 'I’m fine' even when she’s not fine.
JB: One of my resolutions for 2022 was to learn more about pedigree, what was it that spurred your interest in the subject when you were getting into racing?
JP: For me, it was always about the horses first and the gambling second. I have very fond memories of spending hours pouring through the Bloodhorse Stallion Register in high school (I was very popular, obviously) and simply developing opinions on what I liked and what I didn't. That led to a further understanding that there were some clear similarities throughout certain lines and that continuation I found - and still find - fascinating.
JB: What are the best resources now for someone who doesn’t know much about that side of racing (pedigree) but might want to start learning?
JP: Get a print copy of the Bloodhorse stallion register and go page by page. Even better, get your hands on an older one and go through and study some of the more prolific stallions of years past. I also find pedigreequery.com to be an incredibly valuable and free resource.
JB: I would think similar to handicapping, learning how not only to research pedigree but apply it to your racing/wagering decisions, is a slow process?
JP: It is and there also needs to be the understanding that with horses, there are no absolutes or perfect equations.
JB: Why and when do you think learning about pedigree can be useful in handicapping a race?
JP: I think pedigree matters most with first time starters or with horses doing something different for the first time like a new surface or distance.
JB: Are there certain sires right now that you find automatically your eyes get excited when you see?
JP: I will never not be excited by Broken Vow, to me he is an incredibly underrated stallion who produces athletic, versatile horses that can do a little bit of everything on the track but also have terrific aptitude for second careers as sport horses. Like with people, everyone has a type and some of this is subjective. For example - Unbridled's Song never did for me - I understand he was a sought after stallion who produced so many top class horses but physically he stamped his offspring in such a strong way (such long pasterns!) and I have never particularly liked them.
JB: I think we’ve all heard a TV analyst mention pedigree in a 10k claimer race where every horse has run 20 times over that surface and distance. Are there some races where you won’t even bother looking or utilizing pedigree?
JP: I spent a large portion of my career at a small track with bottom claimers and for me, talking about pedigree at that point was a way as a broadcaster to fill some space and say something nice when maybe there wasn't that much to say about the horse's recent past performances. I also feel like my role as a commentator is to help educate the public a bit so I would take some of those moments as a chance to explain an interesting (to me) pedigree fact. But at a certain point, a horse has showed you everything they are and are not. Pedigree and conformation can only take you so far.
JB: Other than a surface or distance change, are there things pedigree can maybe tell you about a horse?
JP: An underrated part of pedigree handicapping is taking temperament into consideration. There are some lines that produce a hotter or more mentally immature type of horse and especially with young horses, acting extremely green or goofy in the paddock or on the track can be the difference between a winning race or not regardless of how much talent they have. Just like people, some horses from some lines develop more slowly physically AND mentally.
JB: In the last year or so you’ve started doing analyst work at both Sam Houston and Colonial Downs. When you start at a new circuit, especially maybe Texas more than Virginia in this case, do you have to kind of learn the local breeding ecosystem initially? Or is a lot of the pedigree still just descendants from more national pedigrees?
JP: I think the Texas breeding program is such an interesting example of this because it is growing at such a rapid pace. There are more and more quality horses both standing at stud and joining broodmare bands. I think it is important to educate yourself on the premier stallions in a statebred market - if you pay attention long enough, you'll start to see patterns and trends emerge.
JB: How’s the Sam Houston meet going for you so far from a handicapping perspective?
JP: It has been a fun challenge and a really great experience. Getting to be there in person this year, I've had a better chance to get to know the horsemen and women and feel that has really helped enhance what I can tell the public at home.