Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem July 31, 2023
A good Monday morning to you all! Back in Richmond, Virginia after a whirlwind weekend trip up to Monmouth Park and Saratoga.
It was very cool getting to see Monmouth Park again for the first time since working there in 2019. Not much has changed, and it was mostly all the same people working there, which was really cool to get to catch up with them.
I did, however, get to meet announcer Chris Griffin for the first time. The internet is so funny in that it connects us with people from all over the country and the world. We often become good friends with people we’ve never met, and that was the case for Chris and I. So it was great to finally get to shake hands and hang out. He’s even more handsome in person too, which was kind of annoying.
I drove up to Saratoga after the Monmouth races finished on Friday. Going through Newark and the NYC metro area at 5:30 p.m. was a really sharp decision on my point. But I got to Albany as the sun set and spent the morning taking a nice walk around the University of Albany, which was a very pretty campus.
As so many of you probably know, that last little stretch of drive from Albany to Saratoga is up there with the best and most exciting drives in racing. There’s something exciting about getting close to Saratoga. The town names all sound familiar, as most are also the names of stakes races we know and love. It’s just such a quaint little area, and then the race track pops into view.
My former boss at Portland Meadows works for NYTHA now, and he was nice enough to give me a tour of the backstretch. It’s always neat seeing familiar names on the barns as you pass by, but Saratoga is that feeling times 10. Todd Pletcher’s barn area probably looked the nicest of everyone that I saw, but John Kimmel’s area was really cool too. The barn areas are all kind of unique as you go around, not just the same looking stalls and buildings like most backstretches.
One of the highlights of the day was getting to do a lap around the backyard with Frank Mirahmadi before the races started. It was like walking with a dignitary or something. As we walked and talked, literally dozens of people stopped Frank to shake his hand, tell him what a great job he’s doing, or just say hello. It was very cool to see how fast the New York fans have taken him in as one of their own. He stopped and had conversations with everyone who said hello. You sounded great all day, Frankie Plain Pie!
There was a big storm mid-day, which certainly dampened the festivities a bit as the races came off the turf for the back-end of the card. I got to watch Elite Power mow down Gunite in the final sixteenth from my seat in the grandstand. At the eighth pole, I thought Gunite was going to win easy. I found out after they hit the wire that it was Bill Mott’s birthday, so that explains that.
I watched the Jim Dandy (G2) from the backyard, and the second Forte put his nose down, I headed for my car. I was kind of having bad anxiety with the big crowd and just kind of needed to split. So I didn’t see the inquiry that arose, even though watching live it was pretty easy to spot the contact Irad Ortiz Jr. and Forte initiated turning for home. As I got to the car, I heard Frank call out “No change!” and the ensuing reaction from the crowd. Most of them seemed happy about it.
It’s really hard to duplicate a Saturday at Saratoga. The place was packed, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the day and the races. I heard people around me teaching their groups how to bet and handicap and all that. I walked out feeling very excited about racing.
I don’t know how you could spend a Saturday there and not feel great about horse racing. But then I logged in to Twitter. Literally every tweet was people upset about Irad, the stewards, the surface changes, and a variety of other things. I know Twitter isn’t the real world, but there’s obviously a lot of real world in it. But, man, was this one of those cases of the real world feeling way different than Twitter. I should say I don’t disagree with the Twitter outrage in these examples; was just a stark reminder of online world versus real life.
Anyways, I’m glad I made the trip and glad to be back in Richmond to get ready for a four-day week at Colonial as we race Wednesday through Saturday this week. Good luck out there, everyone!