Thursday Thoughts with Jason Beem March 7, 2024

March 7th, 2024

A good Thursday morning to you all! Happy Tampa Derby week! I hope you’re all planning to join me for the big card Saturday. Entries came out today, and it’s 125 horses in 10 races, so I’m glad we have some good field sizes for the day. Also, it appears the weather is supposed to be 80 degrees and overcast for both Friday and Saturday so knock on wood we shouldn’t have any weather to worry about and will be dealing with a fast main track and a firm turf course.

This will be my third Tampa Bay Derby (G3) here in Florida. This year’s race doesn’t have the marquee names in it like Tapit Trice last year, but this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) trail in general hasn’t really had anyone stamp themselves as very far above the rest of the class. It still seems like we’re waiting for someone to leap up and grab the brass ring, so to speak. Each of the last few weeks I feel like I’ve said on the podcast, “We’ll know more after this weekend.” Well, I don’t think we know all that much more. But is that a bad thing?

To me, the fun in horse racing is the betting aspect of things as well as the excitement of the sport. I don’t get as worked up about “superstars” as I do an exciting and evenly matched race. There’s nothing fun for me about looking at a race with a 1-5 shot and gawking at their past performances and thinking, “Hey, here’s a free square.” A race like the Florida Oaks (G3) on Saturday is exactly what I want. Some potentially vulnerable favorites with some interesting price options, all within a 12-horse field with a ton of exotic combination possibilities.

I spent some time tonight going back and watching some past runnings of this race. I’ve always said my favorite race is the Longacres Mile, and I think that’s because I grew up watching it and I’m obsessed with the history of the race. Like many big stakes races, the Tampa Bay Derby has a great history. I certainly have come to learn more about it and appreciate it more since coming to work here, but watching some of those old editions of the race was so fun.

First of all, it’s always very cool to hear Richard Grunder. His enthusiasm for racing and Tampa Bay Downs is so infectious. Street Sense winning in 2007 is probably my favorite Tampa Bay Derby. Street Sense getting the “carbon copy” rail trip under Calvin Borel and hooking up with Any Given Saturday for the stretch battle was something to behold. I’m sure part of why I love this edition so much is because Street Sense went on to win the Kentucky Derby, but this was just a classic stretch battle.

Todd Pletcher has won five of the last 11 runnings and will send out Heartened, who drew the rail in this year’s edition. The morning line hasn’t been made as of yet, but I’m going to guess that No More Time will be the favorite coming in off his Sam F. Davis (G3) win. He’s still pretty lightly raced and could certainly move forward. However, he shouldn’t get the easy lead on Saturday like he did last time, so it will be interesting to see if he can win from off the pace.

Chad Brown will send out the likely second choice in Domestic Product and also an interesting contender in Good Money. Good Money won his debut in good fashion here at Tampa, but the fact that Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount might kill any potential overlay with Good Money.

Here’s to a good weekend of racing, and hope you have some luck at the windows!