Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Mar. 14, 2022

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March 14th, 2022

Good Monday Morning to you all! Busy weekend here in Tampa as we’ll talk about in this column.

Of course the two biggest stories of the weekend here were Classic Causeway winning the Tampa Bay Derby and Tom Brady coming back to the Bucs. I don’t have much opinion on the latter, but plenty on the former, so here goes. 

This past weekend was my first time getting to call Tampa Bay Downs’ signature race and what a day it was start to finish.

Even 10 days out from the Tampa Bay Derby, the forecast on my phone kept calling for rain on Saturday. I kept thinking “never trust the weather til you’re within 48 hours.” So of course as we got within 48 hours of Saturday, the 100% rain forecast was still with us.

I woke up Saturday morning early and went to the gym (humblebrag) to do my regular Saturday workout. The skies were ominous, but no rain. I got ready for work and left the house at 9am, still no rain. The second I started driving to the track though, the rain finally showed up. And wow did it show up. By the time I got to Whole Foods to go get my lunch, there was lightning crashing everywhere, rain coming in sideways, fast and furiously. The power even went out for a second while I was in Whole Foods. 

It rained for another hour or so and when I got to Tampa Bay Downs the track looked pretty wet. But luckily the rain stopped an hour or so before post time. And lucky for us, the wind kept on. I think the wind really helped us on Saturday cause as the sun finally came out just before the Tampa Bay Derby, the courses were drying out pretty well.  

Big days are never not crazy when you’re working at the track.

It seems like you get more phone calls, texts, and visitors than any normal day. Which I suppose makes sense. But by the second race, I turned my phone notifications off.

The card went pretty quickly as we got to the Grade 2 Hillsborough Stakes which was the first of the four graded stakes events. Bleecker Street has been one of the real highlight horses of the season here at Tampa thus far. After winning an allowance to run her career record to 3 for 3, she made a huge closing effort in the Endeavour Stakes back in February. There was some talk by her trainer Chad Brown before this race that she might scratch given the potential soft course due to the predicted rain.

Well she ran, and wow did she run. An almost four length victory, a Grade 2 win, and she’s now five for five in her career. Another very cool part of her story is jockey Hector Diaz Jr has been aboard her for all five starts and she has given him his first two and only career graded stakes wins. Truly his first ‘Big Horse’ and hopefully many more for Hector. 

Once we finally got to the Tampa Bay Derby, the sun was starting to wane behind the grandstand. 

The shadows of the grandstand covered most of the main track as they started to load down by the sixteenth pole. My nerves were actually not too bad as they started to load into the gate, which made me feel good about the upcoming race.

This past year’s Virginia Derby my nerves were really bad, so I was a little concerned they might get the best of me again in a big spot. But as has generally been the case with calling big races, the second the gates pop, you kind of go into auto-pilot and it all works out fine. I remember hearing a quote from the great Trevor Denman once saying “we have the easy job, just watch the horses and say what they’re doing.” Sounds pretty simple, thanks Trevor! 

But it really was a special race to call and a special memory for me for a number of reasons. I’ve been feeling very grateful for the entire experience since they hit the wire. 

He seems to get to his cruising speed within a jump out of leaving the gate. 

Classic Causeway once again broke incredibly well. I don’t think it’s necessarily his first step out of the gate that is so much quicker than his rivals, I really think it’s steps two, three, and four. He seems to get to his cruising speed within a jump out of leaving the gate. It’s something to see in person. Both the Sam F. Davis and the Tampa Bay Derby I was legit surprised just how clear he was from the field within four jumps of leaving the gate. It’s such a weapon of his and should be going forward.  

He never looked a loser through my binoculars, and watching the race back on TV, I feel the same way. Just always seemed so comfortable and any time anyone got even close to him, he’d let it out a notch. I’m really excited to see what he does for trainer Brian Lynch in his next start, whether it be the Blue Grass Stakes or the Kentucky Derby. I’m always overly biased towards horses I call, but I can tell you right now this is the horse I’ll be rooting for most on the First Saturday in May. 

Speaking of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, with no preps this weekend, my upcoming Thursday column I’m going to do a little “State of the Derby Trail” write up, just kind of assessing where we are as we turn the corner to the final seven weeks until the Kentucky Derby. Until then, everyone have a great Monday and start to your week!