Looking back at my 2016

So every Christmas Eve I always send personal emails to many friends and colleagues and wish them Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays etc.  One of my good friends wrote me back and said “Keep up your momentum, you had a better 2016 than 2015.”  My initial instinct was to poo poo the comment.  I’m a glass is 1/8th full kind of guy and tend to view most things negatively.  And I think I’ve convinced myself that I’ve gone backward in many ways in my life and those are what I’ve focused on.  But as I think back, I think my friend was right.  The year may have featured some backward steps in some avenues but I think there were more forwards than backwards, so i’m counting it as a “W”.

I started a new job with BetAmerica doing a daily podcast called the BetAmerica Radio Network.  In December after interviewing with them for another job, we decided I wasn’t a good match for that position.  But a week later they wrote back and said “Pitch us something, we want to work with you.”  What a feeling that was to hear someone wants to work with you.  After driving Uber for the previous 8 months since leaving Louisiana Downs, and getting turned down from Emerald Downs, Turf Paradise, Charles Town, Oaklawn, and a few others, it was pretty great to hear someone wanted to work with me.  What I found was a company that is growing and filled with amazing people.  I’ve never felt so inspired about a company I worked for as I have with BetAmerica.  I’m beyond excited for 2017.  In January I got to go to Las Vegas for the National Handicapping Championship and meet tons of great handicappers and racing folks and can’t wait to go back in a few weeks, only this time with a shorter commute (more on that later).

On my way home back to Seattle from the NHC I got a call from Portland Meadows asking if I could fill in for a day.  I jumped at the chance.  It was a little weird and I didn’t have my own binoculars, but for me it was about closure.  I savored being up in that booth one last time and I also savored getting to call what is now my last race in a better head space.  A year earlier in Shreveport I was not in a good place at all and calling races was not any fun.  So since I don’t think any tracks are knocking down my door to announce for them, it’s possible that day at PM was my last and I’m so glad I had fun with it.  Coming to terms with the fact that announcing might be done for me has been very tough.  Not necessarily cause I loved it so much but because I had made it far too much of my identity.  I was “Jason the horse announcer” and it was far too much a part of me than it should have been.  Now I will say, I don’t think I’ve called my last race.  Ideally I’d love to call a short meet somewhere at some point of the year while working for BetAmerica full-time.  BA has always encouraged something like that and I’m hopeful it happens.  But if it doesn’t, so be it.

I got to spend several days down at Santa Anita this past year.  Most spent with my buddy Raider Mike up at the Gallop Out.  There’s still no better racetrack experience for me than that place, even though right now they’re kind of being poop heads about some stuff.

So I’m not really a “best friend” or “best day ever” or best anything kind of person, always seems odd to single things out like that.  But I had a best day this year.  April 6th.  I ate at one of my restaurants and got to see probably my favorite band right now, The Killers, play the opening show of the new arena in their hometown.  The bone in ribeye i had at Gallaghers Steakhouse was beyond good.  It was one of those things you close your eyes while you eat cause you want to turn off as many senses as you can so that the incredible taste feels even stronger and better.  It was blindingly good.

Now, anyone who knows me or has read this blog before knows I hate crowds.  Hate them.  Avoid them.  I’m a panicky scared person.  So a rock concert isn’t exactly fun for me cause I just focus on how nervous I am in the crowd.  But I did the most important thing I could that night and that’s part of why it’s the best night of the year.  I said “this is too important to me to let my anxiety win and have me run away.”   In fact most of my best moments over the last decade aren’t when something great happened to me.  They’re when I stood up to my anxiety, even if it was just to go to a family event.  So The Killers come out and launch into Mr. Brightside first with all the arena lights on.


The Killers! Dave Keuning (left guitar), Brandon Flowers (center singer), Ronnie Vannucci Jr. (Drums), Mark Stoermer (far right, Bass).  

The place went nuts, and I went nuts.  I danced.  I screamed.  I high fived with the people next to me.  I let my guard down and I sang every lyric and my god did I have fun.  I cried my eyes out at the end of “Bling” cause when the ending comes on it always gives me the chills on the record.  And when I heard it in person, it was even better. “We’re gonna make it out of the fire”.   And during “Dustland Fairytale” I beat my leg so hard from drumming on it I had a bruise the next day.  When they finally got around to “When You Were Young” I was so tired, and drained, and happy.  I went home and could feel the adrenaline still pumping and the lyrics still in my head.  Best night of the year.

In late April I started going back to Emerald Downs again as a fan. I was crushed when I didn’t get that announcing job the year before.  It was the dream job.  I probably watched five horse races from April 2015 to October 2015 and I think they all involved American Pharoah.  I think the break actually did me good though.  I do think it’s time to have breaks from things you’re intertwined with so closely on a daily basis.  But this year, I left my ego in 2015 and went back and just tried to enjoy my hometown track again and I found that I did.  So that was nice.

I got to do a part in a movie on Labor Day weekend.  It’s called “Lean On Pete” and it’ll be out in 2017.  I did the race announcer voiceovers and the coolest part was my trailer, YES I HAD A TRAILER, was next to Steve Buscemi’s and I got to talk with him for like ten minutes and he was just the nicest guy.  He really had a lot of questions about racing and was gobbling up knowledge.   He’s playing a trainer in the movie.

As the summer ended, i packed my bags and moved to Las Vegas.  I love Las Vegas.  Not all the strip stuff although that’s pretty and fun and stuff.  But I got a short term rental.  I woke up each morning and walked while the sun rose over the mountains.  The desert air smell is so great.  At least twice a week I’d drive out to Red Rocks and walk around and enjoy what is maybe my favorite place on earth.  I’ve made changes in my directive that I want my ashes spread out there.  If I gotta be somewhere forever I want it to be a view of this.


Photo Credit Red Rock Scooter Rentals!

I came back up to Seattle in November for an extended holiday trip and my plan is to kind of just split my time between here and Las Vegas.  Go back to Vegas for Jan, Feb, March probably then Seattle for the summer then vegas for a bit in the fall.  I can be wherever I want for my job so it’s a neat perk.

The Beemie Awards went off for the third year in a row, and kind of went off without a hitch or anyone getting too offended.  It trended nationally for a while and it really is cool to get to be part of a fun night that many in the racing world seem to enjoy (and many probably hate as well).

There were plenty of other little things that happened in 2016 and I probably even forgot a few of the biggies, but just wanted to try and go thru and note what I did this year.  I hope anyone reading has a great 2017.  Baba Booey to you all.

Buried, but with a view

I went and visited my dad’s grave today.  I try and go when i’m up in Seattle every so often.  We had him buried at Hillcrest Burial Park cause the spot where he’s at overlooks Emerald Downs.  We spent his last days there together.  It’s a special place for us.  So I love that he can see the track from his burial (yes i know he’s dead and can’t see it, but I like the symbolism ok!).   Whenever I go visit him I walk a few feet towards the edge of the hill and stare at Emerald.  Here’s a pic of the view.  Sorry i’m not Barbara Livingston.


I thought about when I got to call some races at Emerald.  They asked me if I’d come call four races so Robert the regular announcer could host the TV show on Comcast.  I jumped at the opportunity.  My only real dream in announcing was to be the announcer at Emerald Downs.  So to get to call races there was something I was so excited about.  I was very nervous that day.  I think it was June of 2009, but might have been 2010.  As the horses for the first race were warming up I was trying to do my best to calm my nerves.  As the last horses were loading, I turned the mic off and took a deep breath and looked up at the hill where dad’s buried.  He’s right over the 3/8th pole.  I asked for a little help.  I called the race and did fine.  And then I cried.  I mean I really cried.  I was bawling.  Calling a race on a random Saturday at a mid-level track isn’t the Kentucky Derby, but it was important to me.  I shut the door and just allowed myself to feel the strange mix of pride and sadness.  Then a knock on the door came.  I composed myself and answered.  It was Duane Hamamura, who was a great photographer in the Northwest.  Duane said “hey let me take a picture of you announcing.”   For those who know Duane, that was the most words he ever said to me.  I smiled as big as I could even though I knew my eyes were probably bloodshot.  Here’s that photo.


I thought about that day today as I stood at my dad’s grave and cried some more.  I’ve been crying a lot lately.  I struggle with sadness sometimes and lately have been struggling more than normal.  Which I know my dad would respond to with “cut it out you pussy”.  That’s just how he was.  But I still miss him and think about him and when I visit him, I always remember to try and enjoy the view of the big green roof.


BEEMIE AWARD FOR FAVORITE FIGHT GOES TO @thebigastabile and @quigleys_corner!

West Coast/East Coast.  It’s a battle as old as the country itself.  And while Sunday Silence was clearly better than Easy Goer, there will always be East/West Debates.  This fight started off with Tom Quigley firing the first shot and it went on from there.  It’s exactly what I want in a twitter fight.  Personal attacks, passive aggressiveness, calling people out, and it was a thing of beauty.  Congrats gents! 














This is always a tough category cause there are some great accounts.  And while Carly/Equibae is a close friend, her account ALWAYS makes me laugh and/or smile.  She’s clever, witty, will argue with #elite DRF writers, and will mix it up so well with racing celebs like Kent D


She also came up with a tweet that absolutely cracked me up.  This is genius.  Not just funny.  Genius. 


Also she was a co-star in one of my fave pics.  She looks so left out of the cool kids group in this photo, so we had some fun with it. 




2016 really did come up all things Equibae!




Twitter can get to all of us and I’m a big believer in taking a break.  But Twitter is like the Hotel California.  You can check out any time you want.  But you can NEVER leave.  Unless your Del Mar JJ.  That dude is gone forever.   But young John Piassek announced that he was going to be taking a break and that it was getting to him.  He did fire off a nice selection before he left and World Approval did win the UN. 

Then John vanished from twitter.  For 15 hours.  Like anyone who gives out public picks or touts, the need to post about your successes is stronger than any drug.  Stronger than heroin, crack, or coke.  I like to picture John fighting it.  Staring at his phone.  “I can’t, I said I was taking a break.”  “But John, you’ve given out TWO STRAIGHT WINNERS! THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!”

Ultimately, twitter won out.  and John won, the Best Twitter Hiatus of the year! 

BEEMIE AWARD for BEST HUMBLEBRAG goes to @racetrackandy


Andy is a tireless advocate for horseplayer rights, but he’s also a horseplayer.  Well early in the year, as many horseplayers do, Andy was figuring out his taxes.  And in doing so dropped a huge Humblebrag that only a true baller would know the answer to! 

Fellow capper Charlie Davis said it best, it was an epic humblebrag.  and it earns Andy his second career Beemie!  Congrats Andy, keep up the good fight!


Mike Joyce Award for Handicapping Excellence and Bravery goes to @horsetowatch

A prestigious award cause it’s voted on by you, the heroes.  This year’s winner was actually a runaway as he had double the votes of the second place finisher.  David Aragona burst onto the capping scene with his blog and now covers the NYRA circuit fantastically for TimeformUS at @horsetowatch.   

I’ll admit when I first saw David I thought “who is this hipster and why is he capping NYRA”.  But it’s so obvious he puts in the work and his insights are really second to none.  As this award is named in honor of a handicapper who commands such respect and admiration from folks across the world, it pleases me to award the Mike Joyce Award for handicapping excellence and bravery to David Aragona.



Twitter timing is one of my favorite things.  When replies stack up at just the perfect time to make it really funny.  See this example


So when Expected Ruler for our buddy Liam Benson won this summer, everyone was excited and many got in on that fat win mutuel…….except OTMB.  The line of congrats and celebration comes to a screeching hault so fast and it just cracks me up.  Congrats OTMB, you may not have won that bet, but you won a Beemie Award!!



This was truly a great twitter moment.  John is an agent at Monmouth Park and there’s an inquiry/objection and he disagreed with the result.  We’ve all been there and we’ve all tweeted about our displeasure with the stewards.  But John was just getting started.  He went off on Monmouth, the stewards, and was mad that Paco Lopez wasn’t DQ’d.  He even called it Paco Park!


He goes off about how Paco can do anything he wants!



Then finally….the magic happens.  He realizes it wasn’t Paco.   #Oooops


Amazing.  Congrats John on a great rant that earns you the Best Rant about the Wrong Jockey Beemie Award!

BEEMIE AWARD WINNER FOR BEST Reply by a jockey is @lanejluzzi


This award went to Julian Leparoux last year for his awesome response to Hickman, so I figured , this award should always go to a jockey who interacts with Hickman.  The thread started as any other thread would, with Hickman bashing Lane for a ride he thought was, well let’s say sub-par.  Lane replied with the shades emoji, to which sent HIckman into overdrive.  Hickman retaliated. 

Then lane did what any jockey should do to a Hickman Critique. 


Hickman’s comeback however was maybe my favorite part of this exchange.  “Clearly I hit a nerve”.  YOU TOLD THE GUY HE WAS ADOPTED AND HORRIBLE AT HIS JOB AND A MORON!  OF COURSE YOU HIT A NERVE!!   But that’s just the genius of Hickman.  When it comes to jockey bashing, he’s Bukowski, Shakespeare, and Serling all rolled into one.   Great exchange!