Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Jan. 30, 2023

January 30th, 2023

A good Monday morning to you all! Pegasus World Cup day in the books, and I had some mixed feelings about the day as a whole. Of course, our opinions on certain races and events vary by how our opinions ran on the track, and my day was split between having some great opinions in the first half of the card and being complete rubbish for the second half. The two horses I touted in my Thursday column just finished running. But I watched the entire card between our races at Tampa Bay Downs and wanted to share some thoughts.

I think the Pegasus World Cup as a single race has been discussed at length, including in my columns. People can debate whether the race or its various iterations and purse amounts have been a success, but I don’t think there’s much to debate in terms of the day as a whole being popular with players.

Ten years ago, the Donn Handicap day card did about $17 million in handle. Yesterday’s Pegasus (albeit with one more race) handled almost $50 million. It has become a top ten betting card of the year in terms of handle, and it’s probably the signature card of the early months of the year in racing.

I think the day will continue to evolve and as I wrote last Thursday, I don’t care so much about the star power as I do the quality and evenly matched fields for horseplayers to wager on.

Art Collector was a 15-1 winner of the big race and capped a big Saturday for trainer Bill Mott, who won three races on the Saturday card. Between Mott and Mike Maker, they won six of the 13 races carded at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, which is kind of bonkers to think about. Maybe it’s because of social media that I notice it more, but people on Twitter seem to be more focused on trainers than anything else when it comes to handicapping or discussing a race after the fact.

I think trainers have become the most important handicapping factor for a lot of players, and they almost try to handicap the trainer more than they do the horse. I feel like I’m guilty of that sometimes too, but I just put my mind in a pretzel when I try to guess what someone else is thinking.

A couple of standout moments from earlier in the card for me were the huge turf debut of Up to the Mark in the fifth race of the day as well as Maryquitecontrary scoring in the Inside Information Stakes. Up to the Mark won on debut at Saratoga before surely kind of regressing from there in each subsequent first-level allowance effort. He was 9-2 on the morning line on Saturday trying turf for the first time and floated up to 12-1 by the time the race went off. If you get a chance, though, go back and watch the replay because Irad Ortiz Jr. rides the horse with full confidence and just launches an insane four-wide move that seemed to persist for the duration of the turn and all the way to the wire. Awesome effort.

Maryquitecontrary has been slowly brought up the ladder by trainer Joseph Catanese III in her career, and she reached a new height on Saturday winning the Grade 2 Inside Information. I was watching her at the start of the race, and she got pinched back pretty noticeably and was last in the early going. Jockey Luca Panici was riding her hard going into the turn, and I thought she had no shot. But she just continued to gain and gain, and while I’ve always heard most horses only have a quarter-mile run in them once being asked, Maryquitecontrary seemed to display about a half-mile worth of run as she won this race pretty easily despite the bad start.

All in all, a fun day of big-time racing. Such a fun time of year — something big coming up every weekend it seems.