Southland Greyhound Park is well known for their greyhound racing action. Adding to that excitement is the energy of the track announcer. Continuing our Track Announcer series, we spoke with Don Johns about his career and greyhound racing.
Don Johns was working in radio in Rolla, Montana, in 1987 when he realized he wanted to make a career switch to announcing races. Interestingly, Don had no experience calling races, nor had he even seen a greyhound race. That, however, didn’t stop Don from applying for an announcing position at Hinsdale Racetrack in New Hampshire. It’s a good thing he did because he got the job.
“I was thinking and saying, “I’d like to be a race track announcer,” for about a year or so.”
Don worked at Hinsdale Racetrack on and off with some long gaps in between. At one point, Don worked at Wisconsin Dells for their opening season before returning to Hinsdale, where he stayed till 1997. Don took a break from announcing to pursue some other careers, but returned in 2001 when he moved to Colorado to work the greyhound racing circuit at Cloverleaf Kennel Club, Wembley Park (Mile High), and Post Time (Rocky Mountain). In 2006, however, Cloverleaf ended their live greyhound racing.
“When Cloverleaf ended live racing in 2006, I thought my career in racing had run it’s course, but as a wise man once said, ‘You never know.’”
Don was right. Sometimes things have a way of working their way out. In 2013, an opening became available for Don to bartend at Sportservice and Delaware North. In January of 2015, a track announcer position became available at Southland and from there, it’s all history.
Over the years, Don has seen some amazing races. One that stands out from the rest is when Cognac Cappucino, from Cloverleaf, set a track and state record. It has been the only 5/16ths race for Don to call that was under 30 seconds. Currently, Don is enjoying watching Bar Gin race and recommends keeping an eye on this stakes winning pup. Bar Gin won the 2017 Southland Derby and has earned nine wins, eight places, and eight shows out of 40 starts this season, so far.
Besides current racing star Bar Gin, Don’s true favorite greyhounds are those he has owned himself. He adopted DJ’s Taffy in 1989, who loved playing with her best friend, a yellow lab named Sandy.
“I think she only raced 3 times, but all she ever wanted to be was a good girl.”
She may have only raced a few times, but DJ’s Taffy was a winner in Don’s eyes. Not stopping there, Don also had Satin, Rocker, and Patches, who all had the same dam, LL Voir Dire.
“LL Voir Dire was the prettiest dog I’d ever seen. She was a blue fawn and just beautiful.”
Those who have had a greyhound in their life know how special they are and Don had no exception in the four greyhounds he had. They were all amazing dogs and hold a special place in his heart.
Working at Southland, Don has experienced some great stakes events, one of his favorites being The Festival of Stakes. The Festival of Stakes is a 1 million dollar multi-stakes event that includes nine stakes races, each of which race their championship race in a single day.
“There’s nothing else like the Festival of Stakes, in all honesty, my job that night isn’t much different than any other. For all the hard work and all the prep, I take my hat off to the Racing and AV departments. They go above and beyond and make it all come together.”
We completely agree Don. The Festival of Stakes takes racing to the next level, making it the “Breeders’ Cup” of greyhound racing. The Festival of Stakes action kicks off in just a few weeks on Saturday, September 9th, so make sure you don’t miss out on this incredible stakes series.
Southland is also unique because they are the only greyhound track in the United States to offer races with nine dogs. While they don’t run every race with all nine boxes filled, Don recommends playing the nine dog when the opportunity is available.
“I’d tell people, ‘take a good look at that 9 dog.’ Does it benefit from that outside post? With that extra dog, the pools can really grow, especially the .10 supers.”
Don’s energy allows him to quickly and effectively call races. We are very happy that, off of a whim, Don formed a desire to announce greyhound races because we enjoy listening to him at Southland Park. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Don it’s to chase those desires because you never know where they may lead.
We would like to thank Don Johns for speaking with us and sharing his story. We would also like to thank Shane Bolender for providing the a picture of Don. Don’t forget to catch Don at Southland Park Wednesday through Sunday for great greyhound racing. 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.