Homeracing

Keeneland Opening Day and the Double DQ

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Jason Beem

October 5th, 2017

Opening Day at Keeneland is nearly here and with it, an exciting three weeks of great racing is ahead of us. I spent three years working in Cincinnati at River Downs, which conveniently always left me time to go to Keeneland on Wednesdays when we didn't race. But in 2008, the River Downs opener was pushed back a week, so for the first time, I was going to get to go to Opening Day of the Spring meet. I made the 90 minute drive, parked in the grass parking lot, and hiked up and into the track. Keeneland is the only track other than Santa Anita where no matter how many times I've visited, I still get the chills walking in. It just has that "it" factor.
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Horses run from the gate at Keeneland

I had been up handicapping the card and my two strong opinions on the day were Merkel, who was a Steve Asmussen firster in the third race, and Barrier Reef for Saaed Bin Suroor in the featured Transylvania. I was a Pick 3/Pick 4 player at the time so I'd play and early Pick 3 with Merkel singled in the third leg. Also played an Early Pick 4 which started in race 2 with Merkel the single and some spreading in races 2 and 5.

So the first race I was three deep in my Pick 3 and wouldn't you know it, the longest shot of the three, Above Board, ended up getting a narrow win over a big longshot. It was a 7/1 start to my ticket and I was riding high. Until I heard that phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of all horseplayers. "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Stewards have posted the Inquiry sign." Oh no. We looked out at the big video board and Above Board had been involved in quite a bit of bumping in that stretch run. Now I don't know about you, but whenever a horse I bet was part of an inquiry, I almost always thought my horse was either innocent of the accusations, or was totally effected by another horse, depending on what I need. I kept telling myself "They were both at fault, they can't take me down." But they did. I cursed, smacked my form against my leg, and basically embarrassed myself in front of everyone around me, including my buddy Vince who I had gone there with.

Getting DQ'd is just the worst. When you see your horse cross the line in front, you feel so great. You've won! And then it's like the Stewards reach into your pocket, take out your ticket, and rip it up right in front of your face. To me getting DQ'd always felt worse than taking a bad beat where you missed by a nose.

But we moved on, and luckily for me, my Pick 4 in the second race started off with a 10/1 upset (who I also had in my now dead Pick 3). Race 3 came up and my single Merkel blasted from the gate, turned for home in front, and drew off to win at 6/5. "Alright, I would have had the Pick 3, but this Pick 4 is halfway home with a 10/1 shot. Feeling better." Then came Race 4. I had two horses, the two logical favorites. A 20/1 longshot named Favorite Fantasy went to the front and both my runners were in the back of the pack. They both started running on as they turned for home and Great Thought, the 2/1 favorite came up on the outside and hit the lead late, winning by a half length over the big bomber who held on for second. My other horse finished third.

Then it happened again. "There's a jockey's objection against the winner." I looked up at Kurt Becker's announcer's booth and shook my head thinking "Kurt my man, you didn't just say that." So the replays come up and sure my horse lugged in a bit, but that horse he lugged in on wasn't going anywhere. He had finished 6th, but maybe dooming me, he missed fifth by a nose and fourth by a head, and third by just a neck. But I honestly felt I was safe with this one. Sure enough, John Veitch and the Stewards crew took me down. It was the first time i'd ever been DQ'd not only twice in one day, but twice in just over an hour!

Like the immature person I was, I told Vince "we gotta get out of here." He wanted to stay for one more race so I agreed. My now dead Pick 4 ticket was pretty spread in the last leg and the 4/1 winner was one that I had. The Pick 4 paid $3,500 for $0.50 but that's because of the 20/1 who got put up. Still would have paid a couple hundo if I'd have won it with my favorite. So we made some bets for the road and headed out. I was too annoyed to keep playing. My other top pick Barrier Reef never ran a jump in the Transylvania so every bet I made that day was a loser. Nine years later it's probably time to move on, but man. DQ's are the worst. People often say they remember the bad beats more than the great wins. I can tell you one thing, I remember the DQ's much more clearly than the bad beats.

Everyone have a great Keeneland, I hope your opening day is free of the judges!
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