Jason Beem's Thursday Thoughts June 16, 2022

Profile Picture: Jason Beem

June 16th, 2022

A good Thursday morning to you all! Hope everyone is having a good week, and if you’re like me and you’re somewhere that is currently in a heat wave, you have my sympathies.

Racing has been cancelled here in Kentucky the last couple of days because of temperatures in the high 90s. I’ve mostly been sitting around in the house podcasting and watching movies to avoid having to go out in the heat. However, it looks like a few days of respite are in the cards this weekend.

So I wanted to use today’s Thursday column to put a final bow on the Triple Crown season of 2022 and just go through some thoughts on the series in general.

Like almost every year, the season leading up to the Kentucky Derby features so many changes, defections, big wins, stunning losses, and this year was no exception. Think of how far things came from last November, when Corniche was winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and was the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby at the time. He still hasn’t raced and his trainer wasn’t allowed any entrants. As 2021 came to an end, it was Jack Christopher, Smile Happy, and Rattle N Roll who were the top individual horses in the Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby future wagers.

Eventual Derby runner up Epicenter was 52-1 in Pool 1 and third-place finisher Zandon was 56-1! Rich Strike, of course, was part of the field for Pool 1 who were 3-5, so tough beat for those Epicenter and Zandon future players!

Rich Strike’s win was compared by many to Mine That Bird, who shocked the 2009 Kentucky Derby and, in my opinion, the comparisons are very justified. A super longshot who rallied up the inside to get by the favorites and score an upset win for small time connections, Calvin Borel excluded.

Once I realized that it was the #21 horse and not the #2 horse because of the similarity of the saddle towels, I had the same reaction as I did when Mine That Bird won. Initially in total shock. Then by the end of the day, celebrating what a monumental upset we’d just witnessed. I wrote in this column before that to me it will always be more exciting when the non big-time connections win a race like the Kentucky Derby, and with Rich Strike’s improbable win, that opinion was only strengthened.

Rich Strike passing on the Preakness was certainly a surprise, and it kick-started the conversation about whether or not the Triple Crown series needed an adjustment. The connections were praised by many for “doing right by the horse,” but I think they were just doing what they thought would yield the best result for their horse by waiting for the Belmont.

I personally don’t see any strong need to change anything about the Triple Crown, but I’m sure part of my resistance to that change is just the familiarity and tradition of it all. And that’s not something to dismiss. But I also understand that things change, and nothing lasts forever, so if some of the parties within the Triple Crown decide to change things up, I truly don’t think I’ll be that upset. 

The thing I think I'll remember most from this year's Preakness was the betting we saw. Longshots like Fenwick and Skippylongstocking being bet to insanely low prices, and Early Voting let go off at nearly 6-1. I have to think the Rich Strike effect was at play with those horses being bet down so low because I couldn’t think of any reason they deserved to be. It’s quite amazing just how much money in the pools of these Triple Crown races comes from novice fans or people just betting names or hunches. It truly can have a drastic effect on the odds. The Belmont, to me, seemed like the most formful race and the one that made the most sense when the race was over.

Every year after the Triple Crown, it’s fun to follow the three-year-old classes. Some will cut back to one turn, others will fade into obscurity, some will retire, and some will go on to win Grade 1 races. Will there be a new dominant leader of the class? Will Mo Donegal be the one? Will Jack Christopher stretch out and prove his supporters that he’s been the best all along? The good news is, we’ll all get to find out soon!