Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem April 1, 2024

April 1st, 2024

A good Monday morning to you all! Well, do we have our Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite after Saturday? I mean, we have to right? Granted we have three big final preps coming up, and Sierra Leone with a big win could certainly stamp himself as a solid second choice. But I just can’t imagine a horse with his running style running up the score to win by double digits and rack up the kind of speed figures that Fierceness got on Saturday in the Florida Derby (G1). 

I didn’t actually get to watch the race live as it didn’t run until almost 7 p.m. and I was at the Tampa Bay Lightning game (Go Bolts!). But I did check the results and saw that he won. But even knowing that he won and paid $4.20 to win, when I finally did get to the replay, I sure wasn’t expecting what I saw. A true "wow" performance and one of the rare dominant wins we’ve had on this year’s Kentucky Derby trail. 

My first thought after the race was back to Bellamy Road. If you’re somewhat new to horse racing, go back and check out the 2005 Wood Memorial (G1) where Bellamy Road won by an insane margin. I think it was 17 lengths. He ended up going off favored in the Kentucky Derby and ran seventh and actually never won again after that Wood Memorial romp. I don’t say that to say Fierceness won’t win the Derby or go on to win more races, just that a huge-margin prep win will stamp itself in the mind of many bettors. 

Over the next few weeks I think we’ll hear lots of folks who are also against Fierceness in the Run for the Roses. Because he threw a clunker last year and his third place finish in the Holy Bull (G3) was kind of a dull effort, people are going to assume he’s inconsistent. What Fierceness are we going to get? The apparent superhorse or the one who’s very beatable? From a betting standpoint I do think he’s a true single or "toss him" type horse. His figures are pretty far ahead of his rivals so he doesn’t need to run his best race to win. But he’s also proven he can be beat when it’s not his day, and working out a trip in a 20-horse field that’s as comfy and cozy as the Florida Derby will be a challenge. 

My favorite part of the weekend was actually a few races before the Florida Derby. I’m a total homer, so when horses or jockeys from tracks I work at go on to bigger races at other venues I’m always a very biased observer. So when they went to post for the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) on Saturday, I was unabashedly rooting for our Suncoast S. winner from Tampa, Power Squeeze. Daniel Centeno has been a top rider here in Tampa for well over a decade and a third of his career graded stakes races have been here at Tampa Bay Downs. He’s had a wonderful career with over 3,300 wins and over $70 million in purse earnings. Just a very good veteran rider who has got it done for a lot of years. So seeing him get to ride on a big stage like Florida Derby Day at Gulfstream and get a big win and a spot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), well to me, it’s a great story. 

I’ve talked to friends who are jockeys, trainers, breeders, and such at small tracks with slow horses. Even they dream about getting to race one in the Kentucky Oaks or Derby. It’s a dream for so many in this sport even if it’s unlikely. We’re all dreamers in this game. I don’t think you can really spend a lot of time in the game and not be a dreamer. It keeps us going through tough times. Sometimes, those dreams have a chance to come true.