Beem on the Backside

Beem on the Backside

Beem on the Backside
Saturday October 4, 2014

This is the first entry of a series I’ll be doing this season called “Beem on the Backside.” Let me introduce myself first. I’m Jason Beem and I’m the announcer here at Portland Meadows. I’ve been here since 2006, so this upcoming season will be my 9th season at this wonderful track. One of my favorite things to do during the year is to go to the backstretch and wander around and visit with all the personalities that reside back there, as well as the horses.

Portland Meadows’ backside is one of the few tracks I’ve been to where the backside is actually on the backstretch. Most tracks I’ve visited the barns are usually off to one side or the other, but here, the barns line the area from the six furlong pole to the half mile pole.

I ventured out from my place at 6:30 this morning to head to the backside. For someone who purposefully chose a career where you don’t have to be to work until 11am, the horsemen hours are something I could never get used to. But within a minute of pulling and a few bites into my first Egg McMuffin, I got a tap on my window from jockey Jorge Rosales. We chatted about his appearance on our new TV show 55 Percent as well as his fiancée, fellow jockey Eliska Kubinova, who is pregnant with their first child together. Jorge said he’s gotta win more races this year as he’s now riding for three.

Once I finished breakfast I headed past the security gate and into the backside. Portland Meadows backside has two main roads that run through it. The road where you enter has the race office, Cindies Backside Café, the vet offices and then the barns. The other road is just to the east and is known as “Main Street” as it’s usually the busier of the two roads as it leads to the On-Gap, where horses go out onto the track to train.

My first stop was to trainer Sam Dronen’s barn where I talked with him and his groom Tony. Tony is one of my go-to guys on the backstretch. I call him the Godfather of the Grooms, cause he’s been around forever and worked for most of the barns on the backside. He’s always got a smile and everyone knows him. He told me that he and Sam have fourteen horses this year here including Miss Madavor who was one of our top horses here last season in terms of wins. She ran nine times here last season and scored six wins, as well as a second and two thirds. She racked up $21,860 in earnings last season too. Sam is coming off a big year, where he had 21 winners from 97 starts, which put him fifth in the standings.

 

Sam Dronen and groom Tony

 

 

Sam was also nice enough to give me a ride in his golf cart up to the track, which to this 300 pounder, sounded better than the walk. We hopped out and stepped out onto the track to watch his horse Wild Hoss, who was being galloped by Portland Meadows head starter and former jockey Harold Kent.

One of the best parts of the backside is EVERYONE there has great stories. I walked up to the clocker’s shack and talked with BJ Turner, who has been our clocker here the last few years. Her son Christian is a jocks agent and has been a fixture here for years as well. BJ within two minutes of me being up in the shack was telling me about her days down at Hollywood Park and how she once got caught parking in Laffit Pincay’s parking spot.

A young man on horseback was walking in front of the Clocker Shack and when BJ told me it was Heath Lawrence I had to leave and go say hello. I’ve gotten to know Heath on twitter over the last couple years (I’m @JasonBeem) but had never met. He was taking a horse off the track so we only really got to say hello, but it was nice to put a face and personality to the name.

Next I stopped over and chatted with trainer Bruno Maelfeyt and jockey agent Billy Christian. Bruno said he’s got five horses here this year, four of whom ran here last year. Said he might have a few more come in. Bruno is a retired jockey who had over 1,100 wins as a rider and then switched over to training a few years ago.

Billy Christian, like so many folks on the backside, has had probably twenty jobs in the racing business. Trainer, agent, owner, gate crew, you name it. Billy is agenting this year and as a young woman in a riders helmet was walking towards us he told me “Jason you’re going to have fun with this gal’s name.” He introduced me to one of our new riders for 2014, Kassie Guglielmino. I looked at her and immediately felt the terror of having to say Guglielmino in a split second with four horses across the track at the eighth pole. Goo Lee El Mee No for those scoring at home. Kassie said she rode up at Lethbridge last season in Alberta and then rode the Oregon fairs this summer.

As I was heading out for the morning I stopped in and said hi to trainer Guru Dharma Khalsa briefly and made my way to the race office. Nichelle and Dani are entering papers and getting ready for the season. First day of entries is next Tuesday, so the race office will be humming as more and more trainers come down from Emerald Downs and other places. As we continue on this season I’ll try and introduce the readers to more and more trainers and jockeys and hopefully some enjoyable reading!

9 days til racing!