Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem April 19, 2022
A good Monday morning to you all! I’m writing this from just after 1 a.m. Monday morning in the parking lot at Pompano Park.
"The Pomp," as it’s affectionately known to many, just had the curtain come down on its life as a racetrack. I made the drive over from Tampa on Sunday morning, as even though I was here a couple weeks ago for the Pete Aiello/Gabe Prewitt match race, I wanted to be here for the last night. I’m not a big harness racing person, but I’ve grown to love The Pomp. There was a great comfort tuning in on a Sunday or a Tuesday night, listening to Gabe and his co-host John Berry do the pre-race show and the races there.
The mood at the Pomp was definitely more festive than morose on Sunday night. I’ve probably been here for live racing maybe seven or eight times, all in the last four years, and there’s never been more than a few dozen people scattered about watching the races. There were easily several hundred or maybe even a thousand people out watching the races tonight. I ran into one guy before the races who told me his dad had run the place “back in the day” so he wanted to be out here. There were tons of people taking photos with the track as the backdrop. It looked in some ways like a family reunion as many people from the harness industry had come down to have one more night at "The Pomp."
There was some anger there as well. Any time a track closes, that’s to be expected. I heard one guy next to me look at the big crowd and say, “Now you all decide to come, when it’s too late.” I understand his frustration, but as someone who works in racing, it isn’t incumbent on the people to come out. It’s incumbent on us in the business to make them want to come out and keep coming back.
There were beautiful presentations to people who had worked on the backstretch for decades. They gave a plaque to John Berry and to the track’s all-time winningest driver, Wally Hennessey. They even retired Wally’s “number,” which was 3/5, a reference to how many favorites he drove. Wally also won the finale, which seemed fitting to everyone in attendance who clapped as he returned to the winner’s circle one last time.
When the last race was over, there was a video played that everyone stood around and watched. Drivers, trainers, fans, employees, everyone just kind of standing there, not really wanting the moment to end. I sat there talking with my friends Pete and Chuck after the video was over. Dog tired, but not wanting to leave. Many of the horse people went out and took one more lap around the oval on foot or on golf cart. But finally, at about 1:02 a.m., it was time to head out for me.
I went to the Suffolk Downs final card back in 2019, which was conducted on the most humid day in the history of planet Earth. These tracks' “final cards” are generally meant by the employees to be a celebration and one last hurrah at that track. But man, are they sad. Knowing how many years people devoted their lives to working at, gambling at, or just hanging out at these places. It makes my stomach turn knowing all that history and all those jobs are just gone.
Yes, we have the memories. Yes, we’ll hold them close forever. But I think all of us involved in racing would rather keep making new memories as opposed to having only the ones from the newly minted past to hold onto.
Long Live The Pomp.