Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Aug. 21, 2023

A good Monday morning to you all! Hope everyone’s weekend went well. Spent pretty much all day Sunday watching the racing from Woodbine and thoroughly enjoyed the King’s Plate card from top to bottom. I had the good chance to visit Woodbine back in 2019 and am hoping to get there again soon, as it really is a fun place to enjoy a day at the races.

I didn’t really know much of anything about Woodbine until the late 2000s. I wasn’t really watching racing after Longacres closed in 1992, so I didn’t even know there was a Breeders’ Cup run there at the time. However, while working at Portland Meadows, my boss was from the Toronto area and would watch Woodbine and Mohawk harness all the time.

I remembered that they had big fields regularly and a very professional broadcast, yet it seemed like the handle was just kind of OK. I remember my boss saying at the time, “If Woodbine was in the U.S., they’d handle double what they do now.” That was 2007 or so, and yesterday the King’s Plate card handled a little over $18 million, so I’m not sure if his theory still holds water.

I can generally find something I like about any racetrack. I think at last count, I’ve been to 67 or so here in the U.S. and Canada, and all of them at least have some charm or positives. And all of them have things they could do better. Woodbine is no exception.

I mentioned earlier the professional broadcast, and that has always been a staple of the Woodbine feed. The graphics are always so legible and easy to read, the post parades and races are shot so well. It’s just a very easy signal to leave on all day and enjoy. I’ve always been fascinated how some tracks go with graphics packages that are so hard to read from the computer or from an OTB from a slight distance. I’ve never found that to be a problem with Woodbine.

Hearing Robert Geller’s calls will always give me joy and happiness. He was the voice of our racing in Seattle for nearly two decades and is such an amazing racecaller. He sees a race, in my opinion, as good as anyone and is just a joy to hear.

I remember a friend telling me years ago, “When it’s cold and rainy in Seattle in the winter, I turn on Sunland Park just to hear Robert, and it makes me feel like summer is almost here.” I still feel that way, even though he has obviously soared to greater heights at Woodbine.

My list of Woodbine gripes are mainly with the betting, as the takeouts are quite high on several wagers, and the $0.20 minimums — which are maybe a Canada-wide thing — are absolutely brutal for Pick 3s, 4s, 5s, and tris. I really wish they’d up those. I know some players probably like them, but with those being the higher takeout pools, they just make it very hard on players to make some real scores.

But top to bottom, I think Woodbine continues to be one of the more fun products out there, and I can’t wait ’til my next trip there. All the people I’ve met who work there or race there always seem so kind. Plus, Toronto has a bunch of restaurants I want to try! So here’s hoping for a visit to Woodbine soon for me and for you!