Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Nov. 27, 2023
A good Monday morning to you all! Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend and a nice holiday. I ended up going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner and watched a movie from the 1980s called “Big Trouble in LIttle China.” It was a very good blend of '80s action and cheesiness.
More importantly, this weekend marked the resumption of racing at Tampa Bay Downs for our winter/spring season (yes, I know it’s still fall.) We actually had some fall weather by Tampa standards, as it was in the '60s for both Wednesday and Friday, and just did touch 70 on Saturday. I can feel your sympathy through the computer screen, so thank you!
It certainly does feel like a shift in the calendar on a few circuits right now. New York is done with turf and heading into the winter portion at Aqueduct. Fair Grounds is underway, Turfway starts this week, and Gulfstream’s Championship meet begins on Friday. Winter racing is officially here (see previous comment about it still being fall), and it’s such a change in the landscape. I was trying to think where the northernmost turf racing is during these next few months, and I couldn’t think of much. It’s essentially us at Tampa, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, and some tracks out west like Sam Houston and Santa Anita.
At Tampa we were really fortunate to have strong field size for the opening week, and entries on Wednesday indicate that should continue into week two. Field size on the turf tends to never be an issue at most places in the winter because as I said above, there’s only so much grass racing to be found stateside in these months. The surprise for me, I think, was how full the races on the main track were. It made for a really fun weekend at the track and for me personally, some fun and challenging race-calling.
The main track seemed to be playing very favorable to inside and speed on Friday and Saturday, so if you didn’t get a chance to watch this first weekend, I’d upgrade horses who were in the outer paths for the main-track races. There were six gate-to-wire winners from the 12 main-track races on those two days, and an additional four races were won by horses who were stalking within a length of the early lead. Only two horses came from “off the pace,” and one of those was a race that kind of fell apart later in the day. Something to watch when racing comes back on Monday.
One tough moment from the opening weekend here at Tampa Bay Downs was on Saturday when we honored longtime Tampa Bay Downs steward Dennis Lima, who passed away this past spring. Dennis was the steward that I worked with the most, and he was a downright hilarious guy. The support from all the jockeys and trainers on Saturday was unreal. Stewards have to fine and suspend these folks on occasion, but I think that Dennis’ professionalism really shined that so many jockeys and trainers chose to be in the winner’s circle to honor his memory.
It felt good to get back into the rhythm of things down here, and I’m excited for the meet ahead. We’ll certainly talk some Tampa Bay Downs over the winter both here and on my podcast, but I try to never overwhelm with conversations of the specific tracks that I announce on. Just feeling very excited at what’s ahead for the winter.
Hope to see you at the races here in sunny Florida soon!