Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Mar. 7, 2022
Good morning everyone and hope your Monday is off to a wonderful start.
It’s Tampa Bay Derby week for us down here in Florida, but we’ll talk about that more next Monday.
For today’s Monday Morning Message I wanted to write about thankless jobs at the race track. Particularly the outriders. Over the years I’ve heard people mention this topic many times in conversation. “The gate crew have such a thankless job.” “The valets have such a thankless job.”
When I hear the term ‘thankless job’ I generally think it means someone who has a position that is rarely publicly appreciated as well as one that tends to only get acknowledgement when something goes amiss. One of those positions you almost forget exists until someone in that position costs you time, stress, or money.
So I suppose there are a few thankless jobs around the racetrack based on that definition. I’ve always thought the head starter position falls into that category as well just because you almost never hear about them from fans unless something goes seriously amiss with the start. Even if that may be one time out of a hundred starts.
Today though, I wanted to focus on the outrider position.
For those who might not know, the outriders are essentially in charge of everything ‘on track’ during the races, as well as in the morning during training. They lead the post parade, they oversee the pre-race warmups, they lead the horses to the starting gate, and if a horse gets loose or separated from its rider, then they will try and corral that horse and catch it. That last part to me is what, from a distance, looks the hardest and requires the most skill.
From up in the announcer’s booth, whenever there’s a loose horse, I have a good view to watch the work the outriders do to try and get that horse. Sometimes it’s as simple as walking up to a horse who has already stopped and grabbing their rein. Other times, it requires precision horsemanship and catching them when they’re running at full speed flying down the backstretch.
I can’t imagine the stress and pressure that the outriders are under when there is a loose horse before or during a race.
Over the years I’ve seen a few occasions where a horse got loose during loading at the starting gate and proved very elusive. Outriders would try and corner the horse or catch them as they were slowed down, only to have the horse get away and continue to run. All of this mind you while a crowd both on-track and watching all over the country are waiting for the race to start with their bets already placed.
I thought about outrider roles as I watched the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream this weekend due to High Oak clipping heels and his stablemate Galt unseating his rider. My immediate concern went to the safety of both the horses and the fallen riders as are most fans. All we viewers saw was the actual finish of the race on the TwinSpires mobile app. I was relieved when announcer Pete Aiello said at the end of the racecall “it appears both horses are ok” and he also gave a quick update on the riders of what he could see from his perch.
I talked to a friend on Saturday night who was on track and they said that the outriders were able to catch both loose horses very quickly and they did an awesome job.
Loose horses on the track with a big crowd near just always seems like a dangerous recipe. So big kudos to Jesse Costa and the team of outriders at Gulfstream Park on a job well done under I’m sure stressful circumstances.