Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Dec. 11, 2023

December 11th, 2023

A good Monday morning to you all! Last week on our show I had Matt Dinerman on to talk about his new role at Oaklawn Park, and one of the things we talked about was how you never truly know what to expect at the races. Even the most mundane Wednesday card could yield something truly amazing or insane. It’s one of the beauties of this great game. 

For everyone who tells you their biggest score was on Kentucky Derby day or Breeders’ Cup, someone else will tell you theirs was on a Tuesday at Mountaineer. For what it’s worth, mine was on a Monday night at Emerald Downs. 

I think sometimes we get used to the norm in horse racing and forget that there are so many factors and variables at play during a race. We see so many horses get passed and not come back, like last week’s Remsen, that we’re surprised when it does happen. But if everything went as we planned, what fun would it be?

This past Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, we had a couple of Florida sire stakes as part of our Saturday card. It’s always a fun day when Florida stalwarts like Dean Delivers, Willy Boi, and others are on the card up here.

Well, in the Marion County, which was the boys' race, Dean Delivers did a lot of heavy lifting early on and still had the lead in mid-stretch. As they came toward the wire, I could see the closers, particularly Shaq Diesel, were starting to inch closer to him as the wire loomed. With a couple of jumps to go, it looked as though Shaq Diesel was going to get up for the win, probably by a neck or so. Then suddenly, jockey Joe Bravo kind of stood up in the irons in that last jump and what I thought was going to be a reasonably surefire win margin turned out to be a nostril photo.

The second I shut off my microphone I thought, “Well, that was kind of weird.” When our TV guys showed the slowed-down wire finish, it looked to me like Joe just stood up and stopped riding. My booth is next door to the stewards and when one of them came in right after the race to tell me who won the photo I said, “Did Joe stop riding on that winner?” They said, “Come watch this.” So I got up from my chair and walked seven steps into the stews' room to see the head-on of the race. Joe’s horse had lunged left right as the wire was coming. If Joe didn’t grab hold when he did, it’s entirely possible his horse would have gone into Dean Delivers pretty hard, which could have resulted in a disqualification.

The reason I share this story is that it was a reminder to me that these horses aren’t machines and for the jockeys riding them, it’s not just push-button handling and they do exactly what you want. The jockeys are 115-pound people trying to steer a thousand-pound animal with only some leather and metal and their own strength. There are going to be times where horses lug in or lug out, refuse to take a turn, or just do something else crazy. And I suppose that also means that the riders will have to make adjustments and sometimes do what’s best for the safety of everyone, even if it might cost a win or placing.

Jersey Joe is a total pro and he not only corrected the horse and saved it from a possible inquiry, but he got the win as well. It was cool having him ride up in Tampa for the day as he’s now back in Florida for the winter.

Hope everyone has a great week!