Thursday Thoughts with Jason Beem Apr. 18, 2024

April 18th, 2024

A good Thursday morning to you all! I don’t know why but I was expecting kind of a quiet week on the stakes front with the Kentucky Derby (G1) just two weeks out now, but some fun races around the country are scheduled and hopefully a continued run of good weather like last weekend. It’s starting to get warm here in Florida and I think we’re supposed to hit 88 this weekend. Air conditioning season is finally here. I never realized until I bought my house that running the AC is much cheaper than the heat. The things you learn. 

One of the very cool things about doing my podcast for TwinSpires is all the horse racing fans I’ve gotten to meet over the years, whether online or in person. Last week I met someone who said they listened to the show and we had a really interesting conversation about the sport and how he got into it. He told me he found horse racing when the pandemic started and we were the only sport going and the only thing you could really bet on. 

I remain shocked how many people I’ve had tell me that over the last few years. Our listenership jumped quite a bit during that spring and summer so I’m not sure why it surprises me so much that I’ve heard that mentioned by dozens of people now. I remember during that time on social media everyone was talking about what a golden opportunity this was for horse racing and then after the fact I remember everyone saying how little we did to take advantage of it. I’m privy to basically no data other than our podcast downloads, but it certainly does seem like some people found the game during that time and stayed. Did that offset people who have left the game, handle trends would lead me to think not. 

But what excited me about that conversation and what continues to excite me anytime I hear someone say they found us in the pandemic and still are following, is that we can still create some new fans. This particular gentleman had a legit excitement about the game and betting, and it was so fun to see that kind of excitement that only comes from finding a new passion. Since I’ve been in racing it seems like within the game we’re generally only working with and talking to people who are already into the game. Genuine players and fans. Sure new people come out to the track all the time, but they often just show up, have some drinks and food, watch the races, make some bets, and don’t truly get moved by the experience other than having a fun day. And there’s nothing wrong with working to continue to expose those customers to the sport. But man was it invigorating to hear from someone that truly became fascinated by the betting and handicapping and those aspects that still appeal most to me as a fan and employee in the game. 

My stance will always be that racing needs to be marketed and sold as a gambling game first and a sport second. That will always be my approach in my work and I hope the industry begins to trend more that way. I know everyone in the industry wants it to succeed and move forward, it’s just like anything big with lots of people, everyone has different ideas of how to best make that happen. It’s a great game and like every great game it needs to be managed and improved. Just like baseball and football are still always looking to grow and evolve, racing needs to as well.