Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Nov. 17, 2022

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November 17th, 2022

A good Thursday morning to you all! This week felt like a little bit of a “hangover week” from the Breeders’ Cup. Of course, whenever things are a little quiet on the track, things are always loud on social media. This week was no exception. Since it was a bit of a quiet week in racing, I wanted to write about a more general topic that I think affects all of us in our daily lives, but also affects us in horse racing, no matter what area of the game you’re involved in. And that is the concepts of fear and nerves, and our reactions to them.

I suffered for years with anxiety issues that had very direct effects on basically every aspect of my life. My reactions to that fear and the physical and mental symptoms that came along with them led to me basically backtracking in all areas of my life. I bring that up today because I believe that learning to accept the fear, acknowledge its presence, and still move forward has been a massive key for me improving my quality of life. I don’t think facing your fears is any kind of mind-blowing realization, but I do think remembering to do it is a good thing to be reminded about.

So let me tie this to horse racing in a few ways. Earlier this week, my friend Jessica Paquette was getting ready to make her announcing debut at Parx Racing. She’s brand new to race calling so any nerves she might have had would seem extremely reasonable to be feeling. I mean, heck, I’ve been calling races since 2006, and I still get nervous at some point most days in the booth.

But when I talked with Jess about taking that job and possible nerves she might have, she told me, “I’m excited and ready for a new challenge.” She wasn’t going to let her nerves stop her from doing something she wanted to do.

I remember my first day at Monmouth Park in 2019 and as the horses were going to the gate for the first race, I had the thought, “Why am I doing this to myself?” I was extremely nervous and shaking, and I kept thinking about all the ways that this could go badly. Then something crazy happened. I got through it. That first call wasn’t Tom Durkin in the Breeders’ Cup or anything, but I got through it, and it was fine. It was a great reminder to continue to walk through fear, especially when something potentially wonderful is on the other side of that fear.

Think about people in every aspect of this sport. Horseplayers, owners, trainers, jockeys, race callers, analysts, etc. I’d be willing to bet almost every person who has found success in any of those areas were scared or nervous to take big steps. Whether it’s an assistant trainer leaving the comfort of being an assistant to go out on their own or the TV analyst moving across the country to take their first seasonal job with lousy pay to chase their dream, you can’t achieve something without risk.

I’d argue the same is often very true for us horseplayers. I remember a buddy once telling me, “I never hit any big Pick 5s.” He didn’t realize the fact that he only ever played logical horses so in a parimutuel game, of course he was never going to hit big. He never gave himself a chance to!

How many times have you gone to click a bet and right before you were about to hit send, you took a horse off the ticket who was a longshot or added a horse on the ticket who was a favorite?

Fear often affects us at the windows because we’re scared of getting beat, which is funny because we get beat all the time! Embrace the fear and make the good and aggressive bet anyways. I think you’ll be shocked how much more satisfying your results are.

Is there a better feeling than going against a favorite and seeing them come under a ride and start backing up? Especially as the price horses you did put on your ticket are running away from the favorite? Sure, you’re going to get beat sometimes, but again...we all get beat sometimes! Don’t let fear talk you out of greatness in any aspect of your life.