Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem for March 18, 2024

March 18th, 2024

A good Monday morning to you all! Hope everyone had a good weekend, especially those folks down at the NHC in Las Vegas. Big congratulations to Mike Gillum on winning the big contest. I really enjoyed the coverage from various outlets online and watching from a distance. One of the cool things with working at Tampa Bay Downs is that I generally get to call the first race each day of the competition as well as a few mandatories. It’s just a cool way to get to be involved with the big contest.

I went to the NHC for the first time in 2016 on behalf of BetAmerica when I started doing the podcast. It was such a blast to get to see in-person for the first time. My main goal was to go around and talk to players and try to meet people to maybe have on the show. The great Paul Matties won the tournament that first year I went, and Paul was, and still is, always one of the kindest horseplayers I’ve gotten to know.

NHC always felt to me like the closest we have to a horseplayers convention. That first day it always feels like the first day of school after everyone has been apart all summer. I know people who play every year and sit at the same table every year with people they’ve met from playing in that contest. It really is a great way for players to get together and compete, but also to see old friends and make new friends.

Like anything in horse racing, there’s always debate on how to make the tournament better. It’s still in the win/place format that for years seemed to always be the staple of contest play. I do like the idea of cash tournaments as they tend to mirror a little more what day-to-day play is like for most horseplayers. But this particular contest does have its appeal and certainly, in my opinion, opens up the chances of more people to win. The BCBC I really do think there’s only a small percentage of people in it that really have a chance to win it just because they’re the ones who know how to win it. I remember a buddy who won an entry to the BCBC, and he asked if I had any thoughts. I asked him, “Have you ever turned $10,000 into $150,000 over two days? 'Cause that’s what you’re gonna have to do.”

I do wish that we had more tournaments throughout the year that garnered the attention that the NHC and BCBC do. Of course, there are some great tournaments; I just would love to see coverage of them continue to grow. Our customers are horseplayers, and I would think there would be some demand from them to watch other horseplayers compete. I look at our top-rated episodes of the podcast and of the top 10 most downloaded shows in our eight-plus years of doing them, nine of them are horseplayer interviews.

It was also nice to see some of the coverage and work that horseplayer Alexa Zepp was doing while simultaneously playing very well in the contest. Alexa has been a force on the tournament circuit for quite a while now, but I love that she’s doing content, with much of it directed toward female horseplayers. I believe only 5% of the competitors in the NHC this year were women, and it’s just such a huge market of potential players that we need to work on growing as an industry.

So, again, congrats to Mike Gillum, who will get to take home an Eclipse Award for being the horseplayer of the year (plus that nice little $800,000 check for his troubles). I loved his interview afterwards and how emotional he got when talking about his family and them watching. It was a really beautiful moment.