Jason Beem's Thursday Column for July 7, 2022
A good Thursday to you all! Writing today from Richmond, Virginia as we’re getting set for the Colonial Downs meet, which kicks off on Monday, July 11. I feel like I’ve written these columns from four different places the last two weeks. Life of a journeyman racecaller, I suppose.
I wanted to write about Colonial’s upcoming meet and share some of the things I’ve learned working there since the 2019 re-opening season. I highly recommend following our analyst Jessica Paquette (@jmpaquette on Twitter), as she will have much better insight than I can offer on a daily basis, but here are some general thoughts from me.
Pay attention to rail settings. Generally, the pattern has been that each week the rails on both the inner and outer turf courses will move out 12 feet. Week one, they’ll start at 0 or 12 feet, then move out 12 feet for week 2, then out 12 more feet for week 3, then often back to 0. With the longer season this year, they might adjust that, but I’ve found the track can switch how it plays when the rails do get moved, so any biases generally seem to only last for a week. Last year, there was a week early on where speed just couldn’t win on the turf, and many of those speed horses came back later on and ran much better with the rails in new settings.
We generally stay on the turf even if it rains. Colonial’s racing is generally about 80% to 90% turf racing, and the course takes some rain very well and drains well. The exception is when we get one of the huge thunderstorms that can come down here and leave inches and inches of rain behind. But if it’s just moderate or a short shower, we usually will stay on the turf. So when playing Colonial, check the weather, but don’t be too scared about it coming off unless it’s a real gullywasher.
Don’t be scared off of horses moving from jump races to flat racing. This is more me telling myself this because last year I never gave these horses a chance because I figured the connections must be trying to change something up with the change. But Jessica hit a couple of these type horses going from jumps to flat at good prices with the thought that maybe they had added fitness coming out of two-mile races.
Our dirt course is huge! It’s a mile-and-a-quarter dirt oval that has a chute that can run up to one mile and one eighth races. It’s the second biggest behind Belmont, but the configuration is very similar with the huge sweeping turns. The horses and jockeys look tiny even through my binoculars on the turn. I always tend to like riders who have experience on the bigger ovals in these races because it’s easy to move on the turn and forget you still have half a mile left.
Pick 5s will carry. New this year is the Pick 5 takeout was reduced to 12%, but also new this year is a carryover provision. In years past, if nobody had all five in a sequence, they would pay out on four of five winners. This year, most of the pool will carry. And with the big fields and some occasional unpredictable winners, I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t carry a couple of times during the meet.
Keep an eye on Horacio Karamanos. He’s the all-time winning jockey at Colonial Downs and used to win the title here regularly. Last year, he won it again. He’s a super solid rider who year in, year out, wins 14% or 15% in Maryland. But he seems to step it up at Colonial and knows the unique courses here very well. Remember here our turf course is made up of two courses, an inner and outer. The inner usually houses the mile and 1 1/16 turf races at two turns. The outer is where we run five and 5 1/2 furlong turf sprints along with longer route races at a 1 3/16 or so.
All in all, it’s a super fun meet, and I can't wait to get started on Monday. Good luck everyone!