Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Nov. 13, 2023
A good Monday morning to you all! Hope everyone had a good post-Breeders’ Cup weekend. I honestly took a little bit of time away from racing on Thursday and Friday, but was rather excited to watch the Aqueduct card on Saturday. I don’t know what it is, but this really is my favorite time of year for racing in New York. I know Saratoga is the best, yada yada yada, but I just love the maiden and stakes turf racing at Aqueduct in the fall. It seems like half the races there this time of year are 10 or more horses on the grass, and it just makes for a fun sequence of races to watch.
One of my favorite parts of getting to call races is to watch which horses that run at the tracks that I call at go on to bigger and better. Saturday’s Red Smith at Aqueduct saw Master Piece take home the top honors after not really doing much running at Colonial in the Arlington Million. I really liked this horse last spring at Gulfstream Park, but it always seemed like he was a little one-paced and just wasn’t finishing the job in a few spots there. Well, he finally put it all together and won this weekend as Richard Dutrow continues his big return to racing.
This time of year really is one of seasonal change in the racing world. The Breeders’ Cup is obviously such a big marker as the “end of the season” for many of the championship horses. For a lot of us horseplayers, it’s just one of the bigger Saturdays in a calendar with 52 of them. Labor Day always feels like a big shift in the racing calendar as so many tracks wrap up their summer campaigns on or around that day. In the coming weeks, we’ll have several wintertime tracks starting up, like Fair Grounds, Tampa Bay Downs, and Gulfstream’s big winter meet not long behind those.
Fall racing always makes me think of Portland Meadows. We generally started in early or mid-October, and those first couple of weekends were often filled with pleasant fall weather and some good racing as a lot of the connections from Emerald Downs would come down for the first parts of the meet. I’ll never forget jockey Kevin Radke coming down to Portland back in 2007 or 2008-ish. Kevin had led Emerald Downs in wins on a few occasions and decided to make Portland Meadows his winter riding grounds that year. The first two weeks, the weather was in the mid- to upper-60s, sunshine was abundant, and Kevin was winning some races. We were at dinner with some other racetrackers one night, and he told me, “I think I’m just going to stay all winter long. It’s great here, I’m really enjoying it.”
The next week the rains started. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and, of course, we’re famous for our rain. I don’t know the exact numbers, but to me it sure always felt like once the rain started in November, it wouldn’t stop for a long time. November and December always felt like the rainiest months. Well, week 3 of that Portland Meadows season it rained all weekend. And we didn’t see Kevin Radke again for the rest of the meet after that big rain.
Fall seems like a lot of people’s favorite season, and it’s probably my favorite as well. Now, down here in Florida we don’t really get a "fall," as we kind of just do summer and spring down here. But as racing is now just nine days away from kicking off here, it does feel like a changing of the seasons. It’s still 82 degrees most days, but the light is lower, the days shorter, and the racing just about ready. Fall feels different than it did in Portland, but the shift from summer is always a welcome one to me. Hope it is for you as well.