Jason Beem's Thursday Column for June 29, 2023

June 29th, 2023

A good Thursday morning to you all! Hope everyone is having a good week and wrapping up June in good style. I’m ready for July, ready to be busier and back to racing at Colonial Downs. I’ll certainly be writing more about Colonial once I get settled up in Richmond and once our season gets going. It’s going to be a great meet up there, and I hope we can build on the momentum we’ve gained there the last few years.

I’m sitting here watching the NHL draft in my living room and like many things in life, I was trying to compare it to something in racing, but I’m struggling to find any correlations. These professional sports drafts are such incredible moments in these players' lives. Imagine working your whole life for the opportunity to continue your dream and getting selected by a professional team. It must be amazing.

Now, we do have great moments like that in horse racing. Often in the public eye like this, but most often under the normal circumstances of everyday racing. The one that leaps to my mind that happened recently was Jena Antonucci and her win in the Belmont (G1) with Arcangelo. The video of her celebrating a monumental career win was absolutely incredible.

I’d love to see more of these moments captured in our sport. Obviously, huge high-level successes like someone winning their first Kentucky Derby (G1) or Belmont will always get coverage, as they should. But there are so many incredible "firsts" and milestones that happen in our sport all the time, even though they may be a little bit lower on the grandeur scale.

I think the most notable regular celebrations we see are when a jockey wins their first race. They’re usually sprayed with water and shaving cream, and whatever else the riders can find in the room. And it’s always fun and cool when it’s caught on camera.

Most racing staff, including television staff, are very small. Having someone out and about to capture fun moments on a daily basis is unlikely at most tracks that employ a bare-bones staff. It would be great if every time a jock won for the first time that there were multiple cameras there to catch the celebration. But so many of the participants in our sport have great and meaningful moments that go on behind the scenes: a groom winning their first race or first graded stakes race; a hot walker walking their first horse in the paddock; the paddock handicapper picking their first Grade 1 race on camera. All small but great moments.

I’ll never forget getting to call my first graded stakes race. The 2019 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park was a Grade 3 event and certainly not a major spot on the racing calendar. But for me, it will always be a memory and marker of a point in my life and career.

I had made a goal when I started announcing at age 25 to call a graded stakes by the time I was 30 and a Grade 1 by the time I was 35. My career got sidetracked because of my anxiety issues and for many years I never thought I’d ever announce again, let alone get to call those graded races I had hoped to when I was younger.

I was 39 when I crossed off that graded stakes goal and three weeks later, I crossed off the Grade 1 goal in the United Nations. I have vivid memories of the moments before, during, and after those races. They’re private moments but important for me.

I think racing has so many of those type of moments for so many people. If you’re reading this and have a moment in your career or time in racing as a fan that you’re willing to share, hit me up on Twitter @beemieawards and let me hear it. I want to celebrate with you.