Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Sept. 11, 2023
A good Monday morning to you all! Writing to you today from upstate New York, as I’m getting ready to visit some racetracks up in this region over the next week or so. So look forward to some racetrack reports in the near future. Going to try to make some YouTube videos of my visits and each track, and I'm ready for a fun week on the road.
I wanted to do a little wrap-up of the Colonial Downs season today. I was doing some reflecting on the season today on my drive up here to New York, thinking about the last five seasons of getting to work there since the reopening. One of the things I really noticed the last week or so is thinking about each of the seasons, they’ve all felt so different in some ways and also so similar in other ways.
As far as things that feel the same each year, I feel like each year I personally have the same pattern. I’m excited to get there. Early on in the season, there’s a management decision made that upsets me. Then I feel annoyed for a couple of days. Then I get over it and try to enjoy getting to call these fantastic races. And then by the end of the meet, I’m sad it’s over and can’t wait to do it again. That process has been like clockwork each of the five years. I’ll withhold specifying the decisions referenced above, as I’d like to come back for year No. 6. :)
But truly each of the five seasons has felt so different. The first year it was all new and different. I’d never even been to Virginia before, let alone lived there. I stayed at my friend the Dark Horse’s house, and the meet was only five weeks, so it just flew by. We ran at night, and the place was packed every Friday and Saturday night, and there was a tremendous electricity in the stands that first year.
Contrast that with 2020 when the pandemic hit. We raced weekdays and with no fans allowed in. Everyone was wearing masks and staying away from each other. Just sitting in my booth the whole day never leaving and feeling like I was just calling to myself. Then all the jocks room got COVID-19, and the season was cancelled after Week 3. That season and that year were just a total downer.
We kept the weekday schedule for 2021 and 2022 and saw more growth in handle, but the track was mostly empty other than Virginia Derby Day. Jessica Paquette was hired as our analyst, and getting to work with one of my best friends each day was more fun than I could ask for. I started contributing to the paddock show for a few races a day, and we’d trade inside jokes on air while trying to keep a straight face and talk about the races. In 2021, we roomed together, and I got us a great place in a not-great part of town. Jess still hasn’t let me forget that.
I’ll admit I was excited when I heard the schedule was moving back to a Thursday-through-Saturday schedule like we’d done in 2019 — Selfishly, because it doesn’t overlap with my podcast schedule and because it’s just more fun announcing races with a crowd there.
This season was a tough one for me personally, just because I was dealing with a health issue that caused me to miss the first week of the season. Unfortunately, it’s still persisting; although, I do think it’s been a little bit better. Or maybe I’m just getting used to it.
But I’m excited for Colonial to build on that, both locally and nationally, in the coming years. I think Colonial is, and will continue to be, a good comeback story, and there are many reasons to be optimistic about its future. I truly believe in the place and where it can grow too, and hope to be a part of the team for years to come.
Have a great week, everyone!