Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem July 3, 2023

July 3rd, 2023

A good Monday morning to you all! I imagine today’s a holiday for a lot of folks, and we have some tracks running that might normally not be on a Monday, so hope you’re able to enjoy some racing today and tomorrow for the Fourth.

We wrapped up our season at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday with our two-day Summer meet and the eight-race cards went by rather quickly, but it’s always so nice to get to call races there. Can’t wait to come back in November.

All eyes were on Ellis Park on Saturday as the $1,000,000 Stephen Foster lined up in Henderson, Kentucky as they wrapped up the final days of the dates moved to Ellis from Churchill Downs. Ellis Park’s traditional meet starts this coming week. West Will Power took home the win in the big one over the red-hot Rattle N Roll, who came with a big late charge and almost won his fourth straight race.

Now, while that was certainly the biggest race of the weekend, it wasn’t my favorite one. That happened over at Belmont Park in the final race on Saturday. Just a regular, old New York-bred $40,000 claimer to wrap up the card.

Miracle Mike was breaking from post two and was sent off as the 9-5 favorite. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Miracle Mike had shown some ability from the start, running second in his debut as a two-year-old. He raced on dirt a few more times earlier this year but in his previous start, they decided to try him on turf, and he closed from well back to get third in his first try on the lawn.

Saturday, he scored the maiden win with a last-to-first rush that saw him pass all of his rivals inside of the final furlong. A truly thrilling finish.

The story behind Miracle Mike’s name was what really gave me a rooting interest in the horse. Franklin Ave Equine are part owners of the horse, and Brian DiDonato is the man behind that ownership group. I first met Brian through his time writing at the Thoroughbred Daily News and have followed him on Twitter for years. He’s even been on my podcast a couple of times and he’s, in my opinion, a very sharp handicapper.

I remember Brian posting during the pandemic about his father being hospitalized because of COVID-19. His father, Mike, was in the hospital for four months, including several weeks on a ventilator. But Mike was able to get through his illness, and the local news did a story about him being released from the hospital almost two months after he went in. His recovery, as his namesake horse’s name suggests, was a miracle.

You can see the news story about Mike HERE.

Horse names are truly one of the unique and fun parts of our game. It allows owners to show their personality but also to honor people or places that were important to them. Granted, some horse names are just a mashed-up combination of the horse’s mother and father, and that’s fine and dandy. But I always think it’s very cool when there’s a real story behind a horse’s name.

I had the great fortune of having a horse named after me by Jeff Bloom, and when Beemie Award broke his maiden at Oaklawn back in May of 2019, I was screaming like I owned the horse. When a horse is named after you, it’s impossible not to feel a connection with the horse. I’m sure this win was an emotional one for Brian and his dad, just given the name and all they went through.

Thinking about naming horses, there are two that always stick out to me from years ago. One was an Ohio-bred named Casakabe. Part of why I remember it was because the owner called me after the horse’s debut to tell me I didn’t say it right in the first start. I said “casa” like the Spanish word for house, and then Kayb. The owner called me and told me it was to be pronounced “Cuh-Sock-Uh-Bee,” and the name was created by taking the first two letters from each of four sisters' first names, and those eight letters were mashed up into a word.

The other name that jumped out to me thinking about random horse names was Chief Jafatica. Now Chief Jafatica was an Oregon-bred who ran at Portland Meadows and won some stakes races as a two-year-old and was our champion Oregon-bred two-year-old in 2008.

At the Oregon-bred banquet, I talked to his owner and asked “Who was Chief Jafatica?” He replied, “Oh, it’s just a made-up word. The grandsire was Chief’s Crown and Jafatica is an acronym.” I looked at him curiously and asked what the acronym spelled out.“ Just another (insert an oft-used word that starts with "F" here) animal that I can’t afford.”

Have a great week, everyone.