Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Feb. 27, 2023

February 27th, 2023

A good Monday morning to you all! Big week ahead with two of my favorite races from my younger days, the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Santa Anita Handicap taking place on Saturday.

I always talk about it, but the 2004 Fountain of Youth was one of my favorite races ever with Read the Footnotes prevailing over Second of June in one of the best stretch battles of that year. It used to be on YouTube, but finding that replay seems to be tough nowadays.

Rebel weekend is in the books, and as it seems to be quite often at Oaklawn this time of year, it was a soggy one. Confidence Game was an 18-1 upset winner, but judging by my timeline on Twitter, I must have been the only person that didn’t have this horse.

When I looked back at the past performances, it did strike me that this horse was a deserving chance. He was for the first time able to win coming off of the pace, and he certainly had a decent pace in front of him to run into.

In fact, the Rebel was nearly two seconds faster to the half-mile than the Honeybee (G3) was just one race prior for the three-year-old fillies. The top three finishers of the Rebel were fifth, 11th, and ninth at the half-mile pole, respectively. The track throughout the day yielded winners from on the lead as well as horses coming from way back, so I think the consensus will be that this was a fair track, and the Rebel just set up for closers.

I’ve constantly beaten the drum in this column and on the podcast about how important I think it is for smaller and mid-size barns to win big races on big stages. It just seems too many of the top horses are in the hands of too few trainers. So I was extremely excited to see Keith Desormeaux score this big Rebel Stakes win along with jockey James Graham.

Keith has obviously had some success, as he’s won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) as well as the Preakness Stakes (G1) in his training career. He continually seems to win these big races with very modestly bred and priced runners. Confidence Game was a $25,000 sales purchase in a race where everyone else cost six figures at the sale or were homebreds by Gun Runner, who is standing for over six figures. Yet, Confidence Game was able to topple all those big-dollar rivals, at least on Saturday.

Keith did an interview after the race on television, and it was just fantastic. Racing interviews, like many sports interviews, tend to be pretty basic and by the book. “How’s your horse coming into the race?” “What were your thoughts on the trip?” Stuff like that.

In general, there is very little to glean from pre-race connection interviews and often not much interesting said post-race. So when Keith immediately, albeit lightheartedly, chastised himself for not schooling the horse properly and talked all about how much the paddock was a struggle for his runner on Saturday, it immediately made me root for him and the horse. Those moments of realness and authenticity are sometimes hard to find, especially in such formal settings as a pre- or post-race interview.

It’s something I hope we see more of in racing, as I think our personalities showcasing themselves does much more good than just the cliches. I know from interviewing people in this game for years that sometimes there’s just nothing to get out of an interview. Sometimes it just is a quick update about what the horse is doing. But when you truly can get someone to open up and really discuss their thoughts and feelings on a horse or a race, it makes for such interesting television and storytelling.

So, kudos to Keith Desormeaux, and hopefully we hear from him and Confidence Game more as the trail to Louisville continues on this spring.