Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Oct. 3, 2022

October 3rd, 2022

A good Monday morning to you all! October is underway, and it certainly feels like the Breeders' Cup season is closing in after this big weekend of preps. Obviously, in recent years, "prep season" has kind of changed as we see more and more horses campaigning less and training up to the big Breeders’ Cup weekend. But we did get a look at a number of potential BC-bound runners, and we’ll talk about them today.

I spent most of my weekend parked on the fifth floor at Emerald Downs watching the races from across the country. Whenever I’m back here in Washington, I love to spend the weekends out at the track amongst the players. It’s so fun to hear what horseplayers are talking about, who they’re liking, and, of course, their often ridiculous theories on how and why the races unfold as they do. To me, it’s such a fun day spent amongst them.

It seemed like the race that garnered the most conversation this weekend was that of the Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs. Any time the Kentucky Derby winner shows up in a race, it’s going to be a big deal, and Rich Strike seems to have become a very polarizing Derby winner.

Anytime a longshot wins the Run for the Roses, it seems to play out that they have to validate their performance. When Mine That Bird came back and ran that good second in the Preakness, it seemed like his supporters and detractors all came together to acknowledge that he was worthy of the Derby crown. I honestly think it’s a bit of hogwash that Rich Strike needs to validate anything. He was the best horse on the biggest day. No matter what he does the rest of his racing career and no matter what his connections do, nobody will take away their Kentucky Derby crown.

So all that said, I do think there is an added pressure for Kentucky Derby winners to perform after their big win in May. Heavy is the head that wears the crown kind of thing. Many folks thought that Rich Strike’s fourth-place effort in the Travers was a more worthy and representative effort than his Belmont Stakes try.

People who were clinging to that Travers as his worthy follow-up had to have been thrilled with Saturday’s Lukas Classic. As a race watcher, about the 5/16ths I thought Rich Strike had no shot to win. At the eighth pole, I didn’t think he could lose. And I’ll be honest, at the wire I was bummed. I knew Rich Strike’s big effort Saturday would make some noise, but a win would have led to a full-scale social media meltdown, both good and bad. Boy, was I ready to watch that unfold.

What did happen after the race, though, was conversation about Sonny Leon’s ride in the final stages of the race. As is often the case, watching a race live you miss so much. The mix of excitement, possibly your live bet, and just how fast a race can unfold often makes it easy to miss a bump or incident.

I didn’t even see the head-on replay people were talking about until late Saturday evening. It certainly looked as though Leon was leaning very hard to the left trying to stop the momentum of Hot Rod Charlie as best he could. Given what we saw overseas with Christophe Soumillon just hours before, the optics weren’t great. I saw some people say the saddle slipped and others talked about what a dangerous move it was. I suppose we shall see if any fine or trouble come out of it. I think you could also make the argument that it didn’t help Rich Strike to win the race.

But a good weekend in the books it was. Life Is Good won the Woodward and seemed to take a step backward in the eyes of many. We saw some promising two-year-olds. We saw a great edition of the Arc in France. Another exciting weekend of Breeders’ Cup preps are on tap as we get set for Keeneland! Have a great week, everyone.