Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem April 25, 2022

April 25th, 2022

A good Monday morning to you all! Last week I wrote the Monday column at 1 a.m. from the Pompano Park parking lot. Tonight, it’s closer to midnight from my couch just after getting back home from an Elton John concert in Tampa. Very different emotional experiences seeing Wally Hennessey win the final race at Pomp compared to Elton playing "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" while floating up above the crowd saying his goodbyes. But both are certainly emotional experiences.

My general thought for Monday’s column is to write about something I enjoyed over the weekend in the world of racing. Obviously, some weekends like last weekend’s Pompano closure, the story kind of writes itself. Some weekends, there will be a breakout performance. Some weekends, there won’t be much of large significance to happen on the track. But there will always be something to talk about in racing.

Saturday night, I initially thought about writing about Scalding, who took home the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland earlier that day. We got to see him run a couple of times here at Tampa Bay Downs, including his win in the Grade 3 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes. He’s now won four races in a row, including the Ben Ali, and is really a horse on the upswing. He seems to always put in good move on the turn and has a stretch kick to hold off the late closers, and I think his potential is there to maybe jump up and win a Grade 1 handicap division race at some point.

That older handicap division does always feel like it’s kind of wide open this time of year. First of all, often the top three-year-olds and older horses go away to stud at the year’s end. The ones who are top shelf and do hang around generally go over to the Middle East and get some time after those races. So it does kind of feel like maybe there are some opportunities for horses running right now to make their case to eventually go up against the Life is Goods and Hot Rod Charlies of the world.

But back to the thought above about emotional experiences. Of course, as our calendars are getting ready to turn to May, everything seems like it’s Derby Derby Derby right now. As it should be. Churchill Downs’ workout shows will be starting this morning, we’ve already been seeing the taped workouts across our social media platform. Defections are happening, others making the race, it’s going to be kind of non-stop for the next two weeks. And I know as a fan and horseplayer sometimes all the Derby hype and noise can get to be a bit much.

However, I think all that noise is part of what adds to the specialness of it. Every year, I watch the Kentucky Derby on TV and every year, I get the same butterflies in my stomach. I think all the hype helps add to that feeling of importance for what we’re about to see unfold. I tweet every year, “I hope these butterflies I get before the Kentucky Derby never go away.” And so far, luckily, they haven’t.

Watching the Kentucky Derby is an emotional experience. It’s communal. Whether in the stands with 150,000 other people in Louisville, watching at your local track, or watching online on TwinSpires, it’s a moment of togetherness, even if we’re all rooting for different horses. Turning the corner to less than two weeks away, I’m starting to feel the butterflies.