Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem June 27, 2022
A good Monday morning to you all! Writing from beautiful Oldsmar, Florida today as I’m back in town for the Summer Festival of Racing at Tampa Bay Downs. Or as everyone I ran into at Churchill Downs the last few weeks said, “Oh, yeah, those two weird summer days Tampa has to run.” Yup, those ones. But it’s great to be back here in Florida, if only for a week.
On the way down here I was able to stop by Birmingham Race Course and look around. It’s always a little sad to see horse racing tracks still standing and not operating, but unfortunately these days, it’s not an uncommon thing. I was doing a little research about it and the track opened in 1987 to much fanfare, and it’s clear from even what’s left of it that it was once a very nice facility. Apparently though, things went downhill fast and the group who started it went into bankruptcy the next year. Since then, it has hosted dog racing but now just operates as an off-track betting location and a casino. I took some videos of the old racing grounds, which you can see over on my YouTube channel HERE.
As I was driving down here to Oldsmar, I pulled over for dinner Saturday evening and watched the Ohio Derby at Thistledown. Truthfully, I don’t watch much Thistledown, but I do love watching the big days at tracks that I normally don’t follow. I really do think every track should have its day in the sun, and seeing Thistledown did almost $5 million in handle on Saturday, I wasn’t the only one watching.
One of my favorite times of year to play against favorites is the summer Derby season. Races like the Ohio Derby, West Virginia Derby, Super Derby, etc., always seem to feature a mix of horses who competed on the Kentucky Derby trail and new up-and-comers. The horses who are household names coming out of the Kentucky Derby and subsequent Triple Crown races are routinely hammered at the windows and seem to get beat their fair share of the time. In the Ohio Derby, I thought Barese had the look of a possible upsetter at 13-1, but alas he ran an even race and never competed with the big-name boys.
Tawny Port was able to once again outfinish White Abarrio, as he did in the Kentucky Derby, but this time he got to the wire first instead of seventh.
I think a fair number of folks think Tawny Port has what it takes to potentially move toward the top of this three-year-old class. Drawing Irad Ortiz Jr. over to Thistle to ride certainly got my attention, and he certainly seems to be getting better. I remember when he won his debut (go back and watch that race, it’s bonkers), there was lots of talk about how good he could be.
I think on his best day, he can run with some of the Zandons and Epicenters of the world. White Abarrio outside of the Kentucky Derby has been pretty consistent. I think part of that success is he puts himself in good spots to win. He has early tactical speed, and I thought he was in a perfect position to win the Ohio Derby as the field went into the final turn. Which makes his defeat a little tougher to swallow as he had the jump on Tawny Port but just flat out got outran down the lane.
Which leads us last to talk about Classic Causeway. I was really intrigued to see how he’d fare in this spot because I thought his Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby races were just kind of ugly and not representative of his real ability. He ran a race much more similar to his efforts down here in Tampa in the spring, and I liked that they got him on the lead going into the turn. He just wasn’t able to hold off two horses that seem better than him. But he didn’t pack it in this time and kept pitching away, which I think is an encouraging sign. On Twitter, Kenny McPeek said he’s been trying to get Classic Causeway to learn how to rate and conserve his energy. Hopefully for him this was a step back in the right direction.