Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Aug. 29, 2022

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August 29th, 2022

A good Monday morning to you all! Back in Richmond after another weekend of traveling around hitting up race tracks, including a first-time visit to Timonium, which I’ll write about on Thursday.

I wanted to dedicate today to writing about the Charles Town Classic from Friday night and the experience on track. I made the trek from Richmond up to Charles Town, West Virginia on Friday and was able to take in 11 of the 13 races on the card. Side note, I had dinner at Tee Dawgs BBQ in downtown Charles Town, and it was pretty darn good. Two thumbs up.

I had been to Charles Town once before back in 2020 for a Friday night of racing. Upon my arrival that night I received a phone call saying that Colonial Downs was cancelling the remainder of our season because of a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the jockeys room, so I ended up only staying for a couple of races and driving back to Richmond to get my stuff and go back home. You can watch some video of that trip HERE.

Of course, that was mid-2020 COVID, and this was their signature event of the year, so the atmosphere this past Friday night was starkly different. There was a very good size crowd and let me tell you, West Virginians know how to party at the race track! It was a great mix of betting, excitement, and good racing. There was lots of fun stuff going on past the finish line, like a DJ and games, but I stayed over with the gamblers along the rail and toward the paddock.

As the night went on and the stakes action started, you could feel the general buzz of the place pick up. Night racing under the lights will always have a different and special appeal to me, and with the big crowd and good fields, it was an especially exciting night. One of the very cool things was getting to talk with folks who listen to our podcast here on TwinSpires and getting to talk racing with them. One of the weird things about doing a podcast is you’re generally just sitting there alone in a room talking to yourself. The connection with the listener comes once the signal gets sent out and they hear it. So to get that real-life feedback and interaction was just awesome, so a big thanks to everyone who came up and said hello.

On the track, seeing Frank’s Rockette get back to her winning ways was certainly one of the highlights of the night. Even though she hadn’t won in a little while, it seems like she’s in really good form right now and she went by a nice stakes-winning horse in Fille d’Esprit. It was around the time of Frank Rockette’s win that the big-name jocks showed up.

Apparently, they had chartered a flight down from Saratoga, and I think for everyone on track it was very cool to see names like Luis Saez, John Velazquez, Tyler Gaffalione, and Javier Castellano show up and ride. After Frank’s Rockette’s win, Luis Saez was taking lots of photos with folks down along the rail, which was really cool to see.

Sir Alfred James took home the Russell Road S., beating stablemate Eastern Bay. I happened to be standing next to trainer Norm Cash as his two horses came roaring down the stretch well clear of the rest. Norm is a very tall man so he stood out from the crowd cheering along with members of his team, jumping up and down and hugging each other. Was a very cool celebration to get to witness.

Society was very strong in the Charles Town Oaks, and I ended up watching the Classic from up in the parking lot so I could get a jump on the traffic. One of the neat things about Charles Town is you can get a good view of the track from two separate elevated parking garages. When I first got there and even when I went up for the Classic, there were a handful of folks backed up to the edge of the garage and watching the races from up there. Art Collector won the race for the second time in a row, and Bill Mott’s barn continues to be red hot.

All in all, it was a very fun trip and an event I’d do again in a heartbeat if it works out. I wrote recently about smaller tracks and them getting their days in the sun. It’s very cool to get to experience how West Virginians enjoy their big race.