Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Sept. 1, 2022

September 1st, 2022

A good Thursday to you all! Very excited for the next week as we have a huge holiday weekend of racing from around the country. Next Tuesday is the Virginia Derby and then Wednesday is our closing day for the season at Colonial Downs. Then for me...some vacation time! The columns and podcast will be off for two weeks after next week. But have no fear, we’re still here next week.

I wanted to use today’s column to share some memories of my wonderful friend Alan Denkenson, who passed away early Wednesday morning after a battle with cancer. Dink, as he was known to many, was a singularly unique character in so many ways, which I think is why people were drawn to him and why he had so many friends. He had several interests that he was extremely passionate about, and horse racing was one of them.

I first got to know Dink through Twitter and ultimately met him in Las Vegas at the NHC back in, I believe, 2017. Dink was very kind to me, and we became fast friends. What’s funny is when I met Dink, I didn’t know much about him, but he was kind of a Las Vegas legend of sorts. He had been the subject of both the book and movie "Lay the Favorite," which his assistant wrote about working for him and being around all the professional gamblers. Dink was also one of the subjects of the documentary "Best of It," which I thought was the better of the two movies about Dink.

Dink was a long time professional gambler, and hockey was not only the center of much of his betting, but one of his great passions. I had the great pleasure to sit with Dink at three NHL games over the years, and it was so fun to pick his brain about hockey betting. Hockey has become my favorite sport outside of horse racing, so I’m still trying to see the game with a new mind and take in as much as I can learn. Dink sat with me at these NHL games and would explain why a goal by a certain side would be better for an Over bet, why a team would pull the goalie and when, just all sorts of interesting information.

Jason with Alan Denkenson at the Tampa Bay Lightning game.

The last game I got to watch with Dink was just back in the spring in Tampa. He had come out to Tampa Bay Downs for a couple of days at the races with his friend John. I got them a box at the track and they sat there all day enjoying the beautiful day and beautiful track. We all went to the Lightning game after the races and had a blast. Dink said he had not been feeling that great and when he got back to Las Vegas after that trip to Florida, he was diagnosed with cancer.

Dink was a huge fan of professional wrestling and loved to share videos of matches from overseas or just from the smaller promotions that he enjoyed so much. He even produced some of his own wrestling cards in California and Nevada, I believe.

I always admired that Dink was such a huge supporter of Thoroughbred retirement. He would often host fundraisers for the Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue and was a big supporter of that organization. Dink had a big heart and was often trying to help those in need. One of his great loves was his dog, Hazel, who he took incredible care of all the way until her passing just months ago.

One of my favorite things about Dink was as a sports bettor, he was always sweating the games. So many pro bettors I know don’t even watch the games after they make their bets for a number of reasons, time being one of them. But I remember at dinners with Dink, he checked scores throughout the meal. He lived betting and the fact that I don’t think he worked a "job" the last four decades of his life, he was quite successful at it.

I always thought Dink had such a unique-sounding voice. His pattern of speech was almost bashful sometimes. When he talked about betting to me, he did so with a very respectful and quiet confidence. He was never boisterous about his knowledge or expertise. He was a very sweet man who lived a really interesting life and made a lot of friends along the way. I feel very fortunate I got to be one of them.

Rest in Peace, Alan.