Jason Beem's Thursday Column for July 6, 2023

July 6th, 2023

A good Thursday morning to you all! My show with Ray Cotolo from Oak Grove Racing the other day was one of the couple of times a year we’ll talk harness racing on my show.

I was introduced to racing via Thoroughbred flat racing at Longacres in suburban Seattle, Washington. To me that was “horse racing,” and for the most part, that has always been the case with my love and passion for racing. Thoroughbred racing has been, and likely always will be, where my primary interest lies.

However, after talking with Ray and hearing his excitement about harness racing, it made me think about all the fans from various disciplines of racing. I remember back in 2019 going to Palm Beach for greyhound racing with my friend Gabe, who would be labeled by some as a harness bettor. I remember as we were watching the dogs, I said something about handicapping Thoroughbred racing, and Gabe looked kind of perplexed. As we talked more about it, I realized that although he was a longtime harness player, his play and interest didn’t cross over into the world of Thoroughbreds.

I don’t know why this surprised me, but it did. I had just assumed that anyone who was into horse racing was into Thoroughbreds. Obviously, it’s the largest and highest-profile of animal racing in the United States, but I think I was a bit naive in assuming everyone who was into racing was into Thoroughbreds.

In 2008, I started working year-round at Portland Meadows, and part of my job was to go around to our off-track betting parlors and host parties. When I got out to our OTB in Fairview, which was on the east side of town, we had all of two people sign up for our contest. Yet, when I got there, there were at least 40 people there.

Fairview was where the old Multnomah Greyhound Park was located, and almost all of the bettors that played there were greyhound bettors. After that first party, all of our contests in Fairview going forward were always greyhound focused, and they ended up being our most successful parties!

People always mention the long learning curve of becoming a good handicapper and bettor. I imagine that if someone is proficient in one of the styles of racing, they can likely make a transition to a different discipline after a while. At least, I would hope the learning curve for a second or third discipline would be shorter than the first one.

I have a good friend who is a professional bettor and is very skilled in Quarter Horse racing, and just talking with him for a short period of time I feel like I learned more about Quarter Horse racing than I did in years of calling and watching them at Portland Meadows. All the years I sat with those greyhound bettors in Fairview, I learned how much greyhound racing had different handicapping angles than any other type of racing.

Each little niche in our racing world has its own library of terms, angles, and lessons. I was inspired to want to learn more about trip handicapping in harness racing after hearing Ray talk about it. To me, I still view the race as I would a Thoroughbred race. After talking to him, it’s clearly a very different discipline, though it does seem as though speed is still a weapon, as it is in all types of racing.

While writing this, I realized that I’ve announced Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, greyhound, harness, and steeplechase events. I even got to call an Arabian race at Sam Houston a few weeks ago. I appreciate all the people who have passions within the various disciplines and hope to learn more about all of them as time goes on.