Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Aug. 7, 2023

August 7th, 2023

A good Monday morning to you all and welcome to Colonial Downs Festival of Racing week here in Virginia. I suppose it really doesn’t start 'til Thursday when we race again, but my nerves are in full Saturday swing already! We’ll talk more about the three big races for Saturday in my Thursday column as entries for that card won’t be out until Wednesday.

This weekend was a really tough one for racing fans and horse people alike with the tragedy that happened in the Test Stakes with Maple Leaf Mel. I talked about it a fair bit on Sunday’s podcast, and I’m not sure there’s that much more to be said here. Racing is such a splintered sport in so many ways. It seems the various groups within it only really come together when there’s great triumph or great tragedy. But even in those moments, there’s still a fair bit of separation between so many of us.

That dynamic really seemed to play itself out on social media in the aftermath of the Test. Everyone was reacting, and it was certainly a mixed bag. Anger, frustration, sadness, and empathy came from all corners of racing Twitter and met up in our timelines. My immediate reaction was sadness from the event and anger towards some of the reaction.

I spend entirely too much time on social media. As someone who’s moved around a lot and doesn’t really have much community in the new cities that I live in, my online community has become my primary community. What’s interesting is whether it’s touchy subjects like social issues, politics, or horse racing, I find when I have in-person conversations they’re always productive, instructive, and generally positive dialogues and experiences. When I talk about them with the barrier of social media, they inevitably go bad quickly and I sign off feeling pessimistic about most everything.

Racing does come together sometimes, and when we do it really is an elixir to all the divisiveness. But it just seems so rare, in part because so many of the factions have different goals and reasons for what they want. And believe me, as much as I try to be a positive person, I’m not in denial that often the grievances and inter-racing arguments are necessary, and change needs to happen. I think sometimes people confuse positivity with willful ignorance to real problems. And maybe sometimes it is just that.

The directive for the Monday column when we first started doing this almost two years ago was to write about something I loved from the weekend. Something that moved me, a fun story, a great race, a great moment. I sat here staring at my screen for an hour and unfortunately couldn’t come up with anything. So my options were to not write at all or to at least write what was on my mind. So here we are.

Maple Leaf Mel was a brilliant runner, and her memory will live on in those who had the privilege to be around her and those who enjoyed watching her race. Her tragic end is a part of her story, but it certainly isn’t the only part of it. My thoughts and love go out to her and her connections.