Thursday Thoughts with Jason Beem Dec. 29, 2022

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December 29th, 2022

A good Thursday morning to you all! Hope everyone had a good holiday season as we finish out 2022 and get ready to greet the new year. All this week on my podcast we did the Year in Review, looking back at some of the biggest moments in horse racing from 2022. So I thought today I’d write about some of my favorite moments of the year that maybe weren’t the obvious big moments. I think on track the biggest stories of the year were Flightline and Rich Strike. The best story of the year was probably Cody’s Wish. But I feel like everyone is going to write about those in their year-end review stories, so I thought I’d pick some that were either interesting or personal to me. 

I actually thought one of the best stories of the year was the emergence of Tyler’s Tribe at Prairie Meadows. I think I first caught onto the horse after his second stakes win. Watching the Prairie Meadows signal they had an interview with the winning owner who brought young Tyler on camera and they talked about how he was battling leukemia and the horse was named after all of Tyler’s support group, Tyler’s Tribe. It was a family horse and an Iowa-bred, ridden by a young jockey named Kylee Jordan, and the horse just kept winning all summer long. Eventually he took them all the way to the Breeders’ Cup, which is quite surreal for a humble Iowa-bred. 

One of the more poignant moments for me this year was the Sunland Derby (G3) win by Slow Down Andy and Mario Gutierrez. It was a strangely run race and by no means a great prep race. But the night before that win, Mario had found out that his mentor Glen Todd had passed away. Glen had met Mario at Hastings Race Course and they found quick success as owner and jockey. They became very close friends off the track and it was Glen who urged Mario to take a chance and move down to California, even though he was the dominant rider at the time at Hastings. Well two Kentucky Derby (G1) wins later, Mario certainly made the right call. After winning the Sunland Derby, Mario with tears in his eyes talked about the win but also how much he was struggling with losing Glen. It was a terribly sad but beautiful moment. 

A little closer to home, one of the coolest things about calling horse races is seeing what horses you call go on to do after they leave your track. In 2022 at Tampa Bay Downs we got to see a bunch of horses who competed here in Florida that would go on to win not just big races around the country, but Grade 1 races! Classic Causeway, Bleecker Street, Gina Romantica, Nest, and Cody’s Wish all ran at Tampa Bay Downs and all went on to win Grade 1s later in the year. I personally don’t think I cheered harder in any race than I did when Classic Causeway upset the Belmont Derby (G1). 

I got to add four tracks to my list of "racetracks visited" in 2022: Timonium, Fair Grounds, Remington Park, and Sweetwater Downs. I wrote about Sweetwater Downs in this column earlier this year, and I’ll write about Fair Grounds probably next week. But the visit to Sweetwater was an especially fun one. It’s a tiny track in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I was driving home for my vacation and had gotten some tough news earlier in the day, so I almost skipped the visit and just kept driving home. But I went and I’m so glad I did. Even horse racing at the smallest tracks in the country can be a blast. The people who were racing there were all just as passionate and hard-working as the folks at Churchill Downs or Belmont Park. The hours and commitment are the same at all levels, even if the purse money and prestige aren’t. That visit was a great reminder of how fun the sport can be at all levels and all locations, and that visit really lifted my spirits for the game after a long stretch of calling races that summer. 

We’ll do some new year’s racing resolutions soon and look forward to seeing you guys in 2023! Happy New Year!