Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem May 15, 2023

May 15th, 2023

A good Monday morning to you all! Looking forward to this weekend’s Preakness S. (G1) and will have my opinions on the race for my Thursday column. I’m glad to see Mage is running and we’ll at least have someone going for the Triple Crown this year. I know there’s been so much debate recently about the spacing of the races and people skipping the Preakness, but the Preakness will always be more fun if the Derby winner is in it.

This past weekend, we got to see a pretty rare occurrence at Belmont Park where Red Knight took home a Grade 1 victory at the age of 9 when taking the top honors in the Man O’War S. (G1). This horse’s past performances are super fun to look at, as he’s navigated his way to this ultimate success as a nine-year-old. He still races for the owners who bred him, Trinity Farm. He debuted on dirt but quickly moved to the lawn to break his maiden in the late spring of 2017. He won five of his first seven career races, but didn’t take on stakes company until his eighth start.

Since finishing fifth in the 2018 Ashley Cole S. at Belmont Park, Red Knight has competed in 26 more stakes races in a row. He’s racked up over $1.7 million in earnings almost exclusively running on the grass. His 2021 season saw him only make a handful of starts and not break through with a win as a seven-year-old. He went to the sidelines and eventually to the barn of Mike Maker, and made his eight-year-old debut at Colonial Downs in our Colonial Cup.

My big remembrance of that race was jockey Will Humphrey getting unseated on the first of three turns. As they ran down the lane, I kept going back to see if Will was OK, but also if he was going to be able to move off the track as they had to run by there one more time. Red Knight flew from the back under Horacio Karamanos to score the win and really kick-start this great late career run he’s been on.

I think many race fans always find a soft spot in their heart for older runners. Part of it, of course, is the more we get to see horses, the more chance for people to become fans of them. I don’t have to say how frustrating this sport is with our stars going off to the breeding shed instead of staying on the racetrack. So when we do get a gelding who sticks around for this long and at a high level, I think it’s exciting for a lot of people.

I was trying to think back on some of my favorite older horses who I got to follow along with for many years, and two from my youth popped up. One was named Kent Green, and he was a total mainstay at Longacres for most of the '80s and into the '90s. He even ran in the final stakes race ever at Longacres on Sept. 21, 1992 but finished last. His home track closed and so did his career.

He started 102 times and won 13 races and almost $400,000 in his career. Stakes races back then at Longacres generally ran around $30,000 or so for the regular stakes, so you can imagine how often he had to hit the board over his career to get to that career earnings mark. But for years and years, anytime there was an older male stakes event, you could count on Kent Green.

I feel like the New York turf division has had a few of these types recently. Channel Maker, of course, probably tops the list, but horses like Sadler’s Joy and Channel Cat also come to mind for me. They dance most of the dances, and it’s just a cool thing when we get multiple years to see a horse’s career ebb and flow. I wonder how many horses who are retired away early could have had amazing final seasons on the track?