Opening Day at a small track

Tomorrow is opening day of the 67th racing season to be run at Portland Meadows.  It’s also the start of my 8th season at the track. I always have mixed feelings on a new season starting.  It’s a strange mix of anxiety, excitement, anticipation and generally lots of things popping up at the last second.  But overall, it’s a special time for me.  I love Portland Meadows.  I love it for all the good parts of the place, and for some of the bad parts.  I love being a small track racecaller.  I love that I get to ride up the worlds most rickety elevator to get to the roof.  Then walk down a long hallway, with no windows, and a paint job from well before I was born.  I love that I have to share my announcer’s booth with the equibase guys, who oddly enough, have become some of my best friends in and out of racing over the years.  I love that my booth is small.  I love that the desk is essentially just some plywood thrown together to make a desk.  I love that the windows make a shrieking noise every time I open them.  I love that when I first started as the announcer here I used an old clip mic that you just clipped onto your tie instead of a proper headset.  I love that over the years, the speakers have gone out on the apron more than a handful of days.  I love even more when fans tell me they missed hearing me because those speakers didn’t work.  I love getting to call post parades and say the names of the owners, trainer, and jockeys in each race.  I love that I get to say “and the race is on” at the start of each race.  I honestly don’t have any strong tie to the phrase, simply wanted to say something different than everyone else who said “they’re off” or “there they go” or one of the twenty variations of those calls.  I love that I have to use a tripod to hold my binoculars.  Because no matter if there is three people on the apron of the track or three thousand, my nerves are still enough to make my hands shake without the support of the tripod.  I love getting to color my programs each day with the silks of the owners and trainers who have poured their hearts and souls and cash into getting that horse to that race for that day, even if it’s running for just a $5,000 purse.  I love when out of the corner of my eye I can spot an owner or trainer I know down on the apron, their hands up in the air and their direction to the winner’s circle.  I love that my booth is low enough to hear fans conversations before the races.

People always talk about opening day at Del Mar and Saratoga and the big tracks like that. I’ll probably never get to announce a big opening day at a place like that, but our opening day is always just as special to those of us who love racing here in the City of Roses.

Let’s do this!

5 thoughts on “Opening Day at a small track

  1. Sounds wonderful. I just don’t understand why or how whoever runs small racetracks insist on not investing and maintaining these places. Then they are the first ones to say they aren’t making any money. Why isn’t there racing every day? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Dylan,

      There isn’t racing everyday cause there isn’t enough horses or money to do that. Most tracks don’t make money on the days they’re racing. they make money on the days they’re simulcasting. However, in order to show simulcasting, you have to run a certain amount of days. We’ve spent upwards of a million bucks the last two years improving the facility. It looks great for what it is. But people’s pocketbooks aren’t that big, especially when many tracks are losing money.

      Jason

  2. Jason,

    I will always be a loyal supporter of Portland Meadows because of you. Never did you shy away from answering one of my numerous e-mails, or stop being so kind as to sending those daily “tip sheets” until I got you in trouble (more of a corporate thing)- your hospitality and cordialness shine through even if you are 2,200 miles away.

    All the best,
    Seth

  3. Jason,

    It was another great day of racing this past Sunday, July 28th. I made a few bucks throughout the day. Ba See Spot Run was a REAL nice one- which reminded me of one of my first wagers I ever placed on a race from PM. It was on another quarter horse that began with “Ba” but I don’t remember the rest of the name. I do remember it paid around $98 and I believe it came out of gate 8. I wonder if I still have those old PPs laying around somewhere? Help me out Jason!

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