He has called some of the most historic races of our time, as greyt and award winning athletes such as the legendary, Talentedmrripley, and 105 career winner, Husker Magic, crossed the finish line. He has also helped fans to cash in on the sport with his picks for both horses and greyhounds. Known as “The Voice” of Derby Lane, Jim Peake has been entertaining greyhound racing enthusiasts with his captivating calls for over two decades.
We recently spoke with Jim, asking about his career and the greyhound racing industry. The following includes our interview with Jim so that you can to get to know the man from above the stands at Derby Lane or the voice coming out of your speakers at home. Enjoy!
If memory serves us right, you have been with your wife for 17 years, married for 10. Is that correct? You have mentioned that you two attend the Breeders Cup for your anniversary every year. How long have you been doing that? Does she share the same love of racing?
You are correct on my wife Beth. I met her here at the track 17 years ago. We have been together ever since and were married 10 years ago this November 1st. We have been going to The Breeders’ Cup since 2006. The only year we did not go was the year we got married. Beth punches tickets here at Derby Lane and she has been here for the past 35 years. We go to Breeders’ Cup with 2 other couples and the girls work (punching tickets) both days while the boys play. I like Santa Anita the best, but we have had great times at Churchill, Monmouth, Keeneland, and Lone Star. This year will be at Del Mar, which will be a first at that track for us. Beth would rather work and make money than sit there all day and watch the races. When it’s on the west coast, we always drive to Las Vegas following the races for 4 Days, which makes it a great trip.
After training under Mark Beiro and calling Jai Alai in Tampa from 1989-1995, you said you were led to greyhound racing in St. Petersburg. Was it something specific that led you to Derby Lane and drew your interest in greyhound racing? Had you had any interest in greyhound or horse racing prior to Derby Lane?
First, let me tell you about Mark Beiro. Mark has been a figure in the Tampa Bay area for many years. Mark started out with Florida Championship Wrestling years ago before moving on to Tuesday Night Fights on USA Network and many other Boxing shows. Later on, he moved to Battle Bots as the Ring Announcer for both the Battle Bots and Boxing. But I met him at Jai Alai, which he was “The Voice of Jai-Alai” for many years. We became good friends and when the head of the PR Department opened, he came out of the booth and became the PR Director. He always told me I could do the job, he always said I had a strong voice. So he showed me the ins and outs of The Jai Alai game, which, by the way, is a great game watching it live. He hired me and that went on for over 6 years. Then, with the Jai Alai business, started the downhill run caused by the longest strike in sports history. He gave me a tip that they were looking for a race caller at Derby Lane, which I found interesting. Came over here and competed for the job with a lot of guys that wanted this job. It was an open tryout and I wanted out of Jai Alai, which 3 years later closed its doors in Tampa. I got the job and the rest is history. Have no Idea what I would have been doing with my life if it wasn’t for Mark Beiro.
As far as greyhounds and horses, I was always a Horse guy, But I grew up with the harness horses. Spent many nights at The Meadows in Washington, PA. I listened to maybe the best race caller I ever have heard, Roger Huston. He was there when I was a young man growing up and is still calling the races there to this day. With the greyhounds, my first exposure to them was at Wheeling Downs in WV. I found them very fun and fast. Never thought that I would be calling over 100,000 races and working in the business for 22 years.
Are there any particular greyhounds that you enjoy watching race? Any particular stakes that you favor?
I like to watch the young hounds start out and find the good ones that move up the ladder in grade. It’s always fun to see them get better and move up to top grade. I still enjoy our big races: The Sprint Classic, The Distance Classic and then our other top races, The Fall Sprint and Holiday Distance Classic.
What is one of your most memorable or favorite races that you have called over the years?
I think the the best and biggest races were the Derby Lane Million 1 and 2. It took the Greyhound business by storm. It was maybe the 2 most talked about races in the sport all over the world. We had the best of the best travel here for those history making events. I am proud to have called the two richest races in greyhound racing history.
Calling over 100,000 races, the memory fades a little, but we have had the best of the best here. From the best breaking dog I have ever seen, Scott Free, to maybe the best Greyhound of all time in Talentedmrripley, to maybe my personal favorite, Flying Coal City. “The Coal Train” was one of the best dual distance runners that I have called, and one of the first ones that I worked on promo wise on social media. I proclaimed him the “Best Dog in the Country” and I took a lot of heat for it. But in the end, he was the last Greyhound Triple Crown Dog winning all the awards in the same year, Rural Rube, Flashy Sir, and Captain of The All-America Team. No hound has done that since he did it. I also can’t forget Husker Magic. She won over 100 races here at Derby Lane and I am proud to have called them all here. One of the best I have seen, Joey Ice, comes to mind. Made him the #1 dog in the country. Would have had a great shot in the 1st National Championship Race at Daytona. There have been so many champions here at this track that it’s been my pleasure to call them home.
Are there any up and coming “hot dogs” that you think we should keep an eye on?
Kentucky Kat was very hot at the beginning of the year. I like a dog right now that is super hot. RT’s Bo Jangles. This greyhound will have a BIG shot to get 1st Team All-American for 2017. Both have a good shot, but we still have 5.5 months to go. Looking for a few of the younger ones to get better as the summer moves along.
With 22 years of calling races, what would you say is your favorite thing about the sport?
The best thing that I like about the sport is the people in it. I have met a lot of great people that love this sport. Lots of fans of the sport that are great. I like the people that I work with now and miss many people that I have worked with in the past. All pro’s and all wanting to put on the best show possible. We are still The Showplace of Greyhound Racing.
Derby Lane has had some movie exposure, such as Oceans 11 and Infiltrator. They have also been involved in the Mutt Derby, which helps raise money for greyhound adoption. Over the years, what would you say has been one of your favorite memories, events, or promotions at Derby Lane?
There’s been a ton of great events here. I was very proud to be a part of those movies and the one that everyone was talking about was on the award winning show Breaking Bad. The episode was 2 of the main stars sitting in a very dark bar by themselves and in the background they had my voice calling the races on the TV’s in the Bar. It was very cool. Lots of people freaked out when they started to hear the call in the background… I got a ton of feedback on that.
Derby Lane features your selections at the bottom of every race page. What kinds of things do you look at when handicapping?
I do the picks every day for the program and do the Morning Line as well. I do them 3 days in advance. When looking at the entries I try and find the grade dropper first, then check out their last couple of races and try to remember their races. I believe the Morning Line is a guide for the non pro’s and people coming to the track for the first time. I believe it is a guide for the novice player to begin their handicapping. Just a little help to get started in the process of picking their winners. I don’t get them all right, but I get a few…
We can’t help but smile every time we hear a race called by Jim. His enthusiasm and love for greyhound racing shines through each time he’s at the mic. We enjoyed gaining more insight on one of our favorite track announcers and hope you did as well. If you’re ever in the area, we encourage you to stop by Derby Lane to listen to Jim call the races live. Check out some of his picks at the bottom of the program, too, and make a day of it.
We would like to thank Jim Peake for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out his “Peake’s Picks” via Derby Lane’s website. One of our main goals is to promote the greyhound industry. Do you work in the greyhound racing industry or know someone who does? Would you be interested in being featured in our blog or podcast? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.