Goodnight….to The Beemie Awards

Wanted to make a formal announcement that a couple months ago I decided to end The Beemie Awards. Well I shouldn’t say end, never say never, etc, but I’m not planning on doing them anymore. I wish I could blame it on the craziness of 2020, but the truth is, I just think they’ve run their course. I try and be a creative person and I thought last year’s show was good, but it was certainly just the same stuff as previous years. I think to continue on they would have needed to really change and grow and unfortunately right now I don’t see that as a possibility.

My intention with the show was always to just make a light hearted and fun night for racing folks and fans. The best part of it to me was always everyone else’s tweets and interactions and them playing along.

Thanks to everyone who watched and supported the show over the years, including our sponsors Little Red Feather, SIMHorseracing, and of course, Runhappy. The “Beemie Awards” team of Mark, Danny, and Carly were so fun to write and create with. Such funny people. So big ups to them.

Thanks everyone!

Jason

More Trip videos!

Been a few weeks on the road and I’ve been enjoying getting to make these little travel videos.  Here’s three more from this trip including Bakersfield to Las Vegas.  A day hike at Red Rock Canyon and finally a day at Golden Gate Fields near San Francisco.

VLOG! Touring Buckley and Carbonado, Washington

Took a short drive this morning out to the towns of Buckley and Carbonado, Washington.  There really isn’t too much to them, but each little town has it’s own feel, so it’s fun to go and walk around them.  Carbonado is one of those places that a million people pass by as it’s on the way out to Mt. Rainier National Park.  But you have to pull of the highway to get to the actual town and I can’t imagine many folks actually make the turn.  So here’s a video of the trip as well as a visit to the Carbonado Cemetery, which had graves from all the way back to the mid 1800s.

Road Trip to Twin Lakes and Grand Coulee Dam

 

What a fun day today.  Took a long road trip (250 miles each way or so!) out to Eastern Washington to Twin Lakes.  Along the way stopped at Soap Lake, Grand Coulee Dam, and Nespelem.  I hadn’t made that trip since 1993 when my Grandpa Chuck passed away.  Twin Lakes was where we spent our summers and it was so fun to go see it.  It looked exactly how it did in my minds eye.  Just beautiful.  I did a vlog of the trip, which you can watch here:

 

Everyone have a good weekend!

Working on my Youtube Channel

One of the favorite things I’ve learned in recent years is video editing.  I’m still very much a beginner at it, but it is so enjoyable to tell a story using video.  And with Iphones being such a solid camera nowadays, you really can make little movies just with a few clicks.   Personally I just like to document my travels and every so often I’ll go back and watch a video and it’s just fun to be transported back to that time for just a few minutes.  My goal for 2020 on Youtube is to produce multiple videos per month and to grow my subscriber number up to 1,000.   If you want to check out my videos and help get me to my subscriber goal, here’s a link to the channel.

Jason’s Youtube Channel 

There’s lots of videos of visits to horse tracks as well as just personal travel.

subscribe

Locks on the Doors; Portland Meadows is closing.

Locks on the Doors; Portland Meadows is closing.

“You think they’ll run here next year?”

Just past the finish line. The toteboard is still there, and to it’s right, the old Portland Meadows Golf Clubhouse. There was a 9 hole course in the infield for years.

From the time I started working at Portland Meadows in 2006, every Summer that familiar question came up hundreds of times.  “You think they’ll run here next year?”  My answer was usually the same to everyone.  “I think so.  I hope so.”

Dr. Jack Root who has been a long time owner/breeder/trainer/veterinarian in Oregon told me once “Jason, I’ve been coming here for thirty years, and every year I hear from countless people that Portland Meadows is closing.  It’s been closing for thirty years!”  But then Dr. Root followed that statement up with another.  “What will happen is some day, I think several years from now, we’ll show up one day, and there will be locks on the doors.  That’s when we’ll know it’s finally closed.”

Well for me, this past Sunday, when I walked up to the front doors and saw the locks, Dr. Root’s prognostication finally hit home.  I only stayed there for maybe thirty minutes or so on Sunday.  Walked around and saw the grass growing over the main track.  The inner rail torn down in places.  The lights removed from the toteboard.  The old golf course clubhouse empty.

PM from out front. The neon horse was still running, but the front doors are now locked.

I talked with one of the security guards who I’d known from my time at Portland Meadows.  He said the day before was the last day of simulcasting.  This coming Saturday would be the last day of poker.  Then January 1, the new owners, a logistics company of some kind, would take over ownership.  They’ll turn the property into some kind of trucking/shipping facility, the grandstand will go down, and life in North Portland will go on.  I’ve seen it in other places.  Where my beloved Longacres once stood there is now a Boeing building and a bunch of walking trails.  Where Playfair in Spokane once ran races there is now a business park.  Yakima Meadows is still standing but it looks condemned and I believe is only used to house motorcycle races.

Portland Meadows opened on September 14, 1946 and was the first North American Thoroughbred track to offer night racing according to the track about page on the website.  The track survived a flood in 1948, a fire in 1970, and several different ownership groups.  Gary Stevens career took off there and in 1982-83 he won 126 races before heading down to Southern California and creating a Hall of Fame career.  Bill Shoemaker won the Portland Mile in 1989.  There were other great things that happened on the track, but those things are all just PM’s biography.

To me it will always be about the people.  I used to love to walk the backstretch and talk with wonderful trainers like my friend Ben Root.  Folks like Dr. Ryland Harwood who was a career dentist and became a trainer, owner, and breeder in his retirement.  Small barns like Bubba Bullene, and GD Khalsa, who despite never having a huge stables, are fabulous horsemen.  Jockeys like Joe Crispin, and Mark Anderson, Javier Matias and Juan Gutierrez.  Portland always had many female riders as part of the colony.  Kathy Mayo won several titles there.  Shawna Barber, Becky Abernathy, April Boag, Connie Doll, Debbie Hoonan, Marijo Terleski, Shawna Whiteside, Darlene Braden, Anne Sanguinetti, and in recent years Kassie Guglielmino and Eliska Kubinova.

Whatever track I go to I always make sure to make friends with the jockey agents.  They always have the best stories and usually have some useful information.  Steve Peery was an agent there for years and became one of my best friends.  Keith Drebin was always fun to talk with.  I remember at the first Portland Meadows Golf Tournament I played in, Mike Delnick was the leading agent and was in our group.  I muttered at the first hole “Well I hope we can win today guys.”  Delnick looked at me and said “Don’t worry, I’m keeping score.  We’re gonna win.”  I laughed and then he said “Jason, the most dangerous wood in my bag isn’t my driver.  It’s my pencil.”   We won the tournament by a stroke.

I also used to love to hang out with the tote room guys.  Brothers Lucas and Ben.  One racing night they were having a contest who could fit the most grapes in their mouth.  So I participated and stuffed like 10 of those buggers in my yapper before eating them.  After I finished them I ran upstairs to call the next race.  As the horses reached the gate I could feel the acid from the grapes bubbling up in my stomach.  I reached down and hit the mute button and let out a big burp.  Then I heard my burp echo over the loud speakers.  I looked down to my mic pack and saw the light was still green.  The TV department even made a video of it which you can see HERE.  It’s pretty gross, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I know the racing wasn’t world class or much class at all.  But it was our track.  I called those races like they were the most important races in the country because I knew to the owners, trainers, jockeys, and gamblers, they were important.  I always felt a sense of pride that when an owner would watch the DVD of their horse winning a race, even years from now, that it was going to be me who got to describe the victory and call their horse.  What a privilege.

When I left Portland Meadows in late 2014 to pursue another announcing opportunity, I remember being very sad about it.  Even though I was taking the next step in my career (which I would of course completely blow), I didn’t like leaving.  I remember tearing up saying goodbye to Jerry and Vestal in the main office.  Shaking hands with Will who was my boss and is now my friend.  I get emotional thinking about Will because he always supported me even though my professional time at Portland Meadows was the height of my personal life mental health struggles.  One year my panic and agoraphobia got so bad that I would get crippling anxiety if I had to be far away from my car or medical help.  So Will set up a huge TV and a microphone in the downstairs office so I could call off the TV and be close to the parking lot and the nurses station.  I eventually made it back upstairs, but I told him countless times if he needed to fire me I would understand.  I look back at those times and feel bad that it was such a struggle.  But I also now have such an incredible appreciation for a boss who didn’t give up on me and ALWAYS had my back.

That’s why seeing Portland Meadows close up hurts so bad.  I haven’t gotten a paycheck from there in 5 years.  But I still am friends with many people from there.  I still have memories of that tiny booth.  The view of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens from that booth.  The good times and the horrible times.  So many of both were had on that plot of land at 1001 Schmeer Road.

The two tracks most dear to my heart have shuttered.  I love horse racing and hope to be involved with it in some way until my final furlong.  Just gotta keep working to make sure it can keep going, and god forbid, maybe thrive again.  I urge everyone who loves the game and might particularly love a certain track.  Treasure the times there.  Take photos.  Take videos.  Make memories.  When and if the doors get locked at your track, the photos, videos, and memories will be what you have to take with you.

 

A tour I did of Portland Meadows in 2011 can be seen HERE .  My youtube page there has several videos from PM as well.

Travel Vlogs

Long time no post!  I’ve been busy traveling and staying out here on the East Coast in New Jersey.  I’ve been fortunate to get to do some announcing at beautiful Monmouth Park and have been documenting my travels with short videos on Youtube.  Here are links to a few and if you get a chance hit the subscribe button so you can know when new videos come out!  Thanks!  Jason

 

Racing and Poker

Racing was my first gambling love.  Poker was my second.  Racing, I was pretty much always terrible at.  Poker I was ok.  Just like a million other teenage kids in the late 90s, when I saw Rounders I was so intrigued by the idea of playing poker.  Here was a game that if you put in the work and made good decisions you could make money at.  I bought all the books, Super System, Theory of Poker, Caro’s book of tells, and like 20 others.  I studied, I played, I lost, I studied, I played, I lost some more, I studied, I played, I won a little, and so on.

My summer job was as a surveillance operator at my mom’s poker room.  I had 8 hour shifts to sit and watch hands and guess what I thought players would turn over for their hand.  It was great practice.  Then after college I started going back to horse racing (you can see how that went HERE) .  I occasionally played poker after that but never in any serious way.   Getting to the rooms was too inconvenient when you could just get all the racing action on youbet and TVG from home.

My first years working in racing, 2004 to about 2009, I remember there was always the constant talk of “poker did this (insert idea) and boomed!”  Almost every decision I heard management make was related to what poker did to create popularity during the explosion of 2002 to 2005.  Remember there was a time poker was EVERYWHERE.  In racing they tried, but it clearly never took off to the degree poker did.   I remember there was NHC coverage for a bit that was kind of similar to how they showcased the World Series of Poker.  I think I still have a DVD of it somewhere.  But it just never exploded or even really left the ground in terms of excitement and popularity like poker.

What poker did wasn’t all that complex.  They showcased the game, they talked of the mathematics, and they showed everyday people and pros winning lots of money.  Me and every other punk kid watching on TV said “I can do that!”  They didn’t shy away from the complexity of the game, but rather showed guys agonizing and considering all the dozens of factors that would lead to a fold or call.  I remember them talking about pot odds, implied odds, and concepts like that.  ON TV!  There was some dumbing down, but they never avoided going into the intricacies that really made the game interesting.  You could see people winning and if you wanted to look up a player’s results you could go to Hendon Mob or CardPlayer or other sites and look up all their results.  If I Google the Top 10 results from the NHC the first two links I get are from the National Homebrew Competition.

Part of the difficulty of being able to showcase winners in racing, is I don’t think there are many.  With the high takeout and other factors, it’s just hard to get over the hump to be profitable, let alone make a living at it.  I think I know two people who genuinely make their living betting the races, and I know a lot of people who bet the races.  I remember one racing entity I worked at once and asked how many of our VIP’s made money.  The answer was zero.   There are more pro poker players making a living in poker in a 1 mile radius around the Commerce Casino in LA or the Bellagio than there are pro-horseplayers in the entire country.  I really do believe that.   I’m not talking just about millionaires or anything.  Just someone trying to grind out 50 or 80k to make a living at it.  In racing it’s a huge achievement just to end the year in the black, let alone enough to make a living.  Obviously the many diverse participants in poker and racing have different goals.  Some just enjoy a day betting every so often.  Some are weekend players.  Some are serious amateur players.  Some are action junkies (holla)  Some want to be pros.  There is certainly room and need for all those kinds of players in both poker and racing.  Not everyone wants to be a pro and that’s fine.

But that brings me to something else I’ve noticed different about poker and racing and kind of what spurred on this post originally.   Some friends were discussing on twitter yesterday people talking about ticket structure.  A couple said it was annoying, and a couple said it’s helpful.  It’s actually something that’s not really talked about in racing circles hardly at all, whereas in poker, betting decisions are dissected CONSTANTLY and in many ways.  Hand analysis videos by people like Doug Polk have hundreds of thousands of views.  Go to Two Plus Two Forums and there are literally tens of thousands of hand breakdowns and conversations.   Poker Youtube star Andrew Neeme (highly recommend his vlogs) spends his videos discussing hands and working how he can get better at playing them.   There are also facebook groups like Hand History Lounge where the whole purpose is to get group feedback on how you played a hand.  My experiences have been in Poker, players actively seek out bettering their betting and play.  In racing, almost nobody does.  People seek out becoming better handicappers, but not so much better bettors.

In poker, most people are going to win with pocket Aces a decent chunk of the time.  In racing many people will be able to hit a Pick 3 or Pick 4 on occasion.  But did you play the Aces properly if you only got 4 bets from other players when you could have possibly gotten 6 if you played it differently?  Was your Pick 4 ticket a good one because you won and profited $200?  Or could you have played it smarter for less and still hit?  Or could you have hit it 3 times if you backed up your strongest opinions and were right?

In poker it seems that if you bring questions on strategy to players they will have a dialogue with you, and are excited to do so.  In racing, people think you’re just attacking them.  And in some ways I get it.  People post their tickets hoping to get encouragement from others and maybe have others follow along.  I always root for my friends tickets on social media, even if I think they’re making a bad play from a structural standpoint.  In my experiences, questioning their ticket structure has just led to them getting pissed, especially coming from me, who, well, you know.

I think good betting dialogue would be a good thing in general for racing and for people who are participating in betting.  But from what I’ve seen the desire to have those conversations, at least on social media, seem to be pretty dismal.   Maybe the thing to do is to create a forum or place where people can actively seek out advice and exchange thoughts on plays, as opposed to a more open forum like twitter.  And again, in many ways I understand why people don’t want to engage in those conversations.  People want to play the game, try and pick some winners, and have some fun.  Or they think they’re already great at it, despite what I’m sure their numbers would say.  Plus they don’t want to be corrected by know it alls, or pros, or anyone else.   As I said, I know many have different goals with playing the races or poker.  Just have been really curious to see why there’s such a massive difference in how poker players and horse players seek out/value those discussions.

Just thinking out loud, would love to hear folks thoughts in the comments.