Jason Beem's Thursday Column for June 30, 2022
A good Thursday morning to you all! Typing this poolside in beautiful Oldsmar, Florida as we get set for the Summer Festival of Racing here at Tampa Bay Downs, which runs today and tomorrow. It feels a little strange being back here and staying in a hotel because I feel like I’m a visitor in the town where I now live most of the year. But still great to be back here in Lightning City.
Seeing as today is June 30, I suppose that means 2022 is halfway over, which is kind of bonkers to think about. HISA begins this weekend, and I’m sure we have much to look forward to in the second half of the year. As someone who works doing content in horse racing, the sport never leaves us without something interesting to talk about. But since it is the halfway marker of the year, I thought I’d use today’s column to look back at the year so far.
For me personally, most of 2022 has been spent here in Florida. In fact, I rang in the new year here at Tampa recovering from COVID-19, Omicron edition. January featured lots of big races from Gulfstream Park, including Life is Good dominating the Pegasus World Cup and his stablemate Colonel Liam winning the Pegasus Turf.
It also marked the birthday for all the newly turned three-year-olds as the Road to the Kentucky Derby started to gather momentum. Forbidden Kingdom looked like a monster over on the West Coast as White Abarrio was beginning to assert himself as the king of South Florida. As it turned out, though, the $100,000 Leonatus Stakes in late January would be where eventual Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike would start his three year-old campaign, finishing third.
One of my favorite stories of the first half of 2022 has been the mighty turf filly Bleecker Street. We saw her win her third career start at Tampa Bay Downs on a quiet January card before going forward to win both the Endeavour Stakes and Hillsborough Stakes later in the meet, both graded events. Since then, she’s taken the Grade 3 Modesty at Churchill Downs and the Grade 1 New York Stakes at Belmont. A perfect 7-for-7 now, she’s had an insanely good first half of the year.
Secret Oath also seemed to be one of the more popular horses of the year’s first half as she dominated down at Oaklawn Park throughout the winter months. After a valiant third in the Arkansas Derby (G1), she of course went on to win the Kentucky Oaks for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. She’s been working at Churchill Downs in recent weeks, so curious to see where we see her next and how she can fare in the second half of the year.
The Triple Crown this year had a very different feel with Rich Strike passing on the Preakness Stakes to run in the Belmont. Lots of debate about whether or not that series should change, but I can’t imagine it will, at least not in the next year. Flightline once again was dominant in the Met Mile (G1), and I look forward to seeing him hopefully hook up with Life is Good before the year is out. Life is Good, of course, returns this weekend at Belmont Park for his first start since racing in Dubai.
I know that connecting to horses happens for different people for different reasons. I’m always insanely biased towards horses who I’ve gotten to announce and hence why Bleecker Street got a mention earlier and why she’s probably my favorite horse going right now. Outside of her, I don’t find myself super attached to anyone racing right now. Hopefully that will change as the year rolls on. Here’s to a good second half!