Blog Spotlight: Don Johns

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.

BarGin
Winning Circle for Bar Gin’s 2017 Southland Derby win.

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.

LL_Voir_Dire
LL Voir Dire

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 custserv@greyhoundchannel.com.

This Week With The Professor: Post Position Myths

A lot of handicappers put too much emphasis on post position when handicapping a race. I am not saying that post postion is not an important factor, it is, but the myth that a greyhound needs the one post if it likes the rail, or the eight post if it runs wide, is just that, a myth. If a greyhound likes to run the rail, the thing to look for is whether it is positioned to get to the rail early. One example would be if a speed dog draws the four or five post and the dogs in the 1, 2, and 3 post have little or no speed. This means that the dog is positioned well in the race to get to the rail. In addition, the odds will be better because the public thinks the dog wants the rail post and did not get it.

If a greyhound likes to run the rail, the thing to look for is whether it is positioned to get to the rail early.

The same can be said for a wide runner who draws the middle or inside. The main thing is whether the greyhound can get to their preferred position on the track, no matter the post. Another thing to consider, when playing a late speed hound, is whether the post is less important than the way the race sets up. It is favorable if there are a lot of speed dogs in the race because they run best on the lead, and only one will make the lead; therefore, the others who do not make it, will not be running as hard, making it easier for the late speed dog to make their way through the race.

Also, there are certain dogs who will only run hard on the lead and, when they get it, will not lose. The post is not important to these kind of greyhounds, just if the race sets up for them to get the lead. An an example of this was a greyhound many years ago named Pestered who, when he cleared on the lead, ran record fast times, and when he did not, he ran last. He had run last in about four straight races and then drew the five post in a race where he was the only early speed. I told a friend of mine, kiddingly, that the dog always won when he drew the five post, and he was going to win tonight because he had his favorite post. In reality, he had a great chance of winning because he was the only speed and would most likely make the lead. Turns out, he did win, by many lengths at a good price. My friend said, you were right, he loves the five hole, when in reality the post was not the reason. The next time “Pestered” drew the five post, he ran last because there was a lot of speed in the race and he could not make the lead. My friend lost some cash on that one, and I explained to him the real reason that he won from the five post the first time.

So, in conclusion, use the post position as a factor, but not just because they may draw the one or eight post.

pawprints

Do you have a question for The Professor? Leave a comment below and you could receive a $2 wagering credit to your Greyhound Channel account if your question is featured! Tune into our podcast, Catch the Action with Greyhound Channel, for news and more greyt tips from The Professor.

Blog Spotlight: Jerry Echemann

If you’ve ever watched the greyhound racing at Wheeling Island Downs, you’ve certainly heard Jerry Echemann calling the races. Continuing our Track Announcer series, we spoke with Jerry about his start in announcing and his love for his awesome career.

Jerry.JPG

Jerry describes himself as never having the “gift of gab,” nor does he wish he did. Instead, Jerry enjoys and prefers quiet conversation. How did someone who isn’t very chatty get into a speaking career? Well, despite having a preference for quiet conversation, Jerry had become interested in announcing when he was a young boy.

“As a boy, I would watch the Cincinnati Reds on TV and pretend I was doing radio play-by-play.”

This interest lead Jerry to announce for his high school diving team when the position became available. With announcing of some sort still on Jerry’s mind, he headed to Ohio University after high school to study radio and television, which kickstarted his 31-year career in television news. Throughout this time, Jerry would visit Wheeling Island a couple times a year for fun. One day, he noticed a help-wanted ad in the local paper for a back-up announcer at Wheeling and Jerry applied for the gig.

“It would be many months before they called. Other guys tried out before me and could not make the grade. The work-weary full-time guy, upon hearing me call my first race, thrust his arms skyward, spun around and said, ‘I’m going to get a day off!”

Jerry enjoyed being a reporter for WTRF-TV in Wheeling, West Virginia, but his announcing spot at Wheeling Island was becoming more appealing to him. After about ten years of working as a back-up announcer, Jerry decided to leave TV and switch to full-time announcing at Wheeling.

“I had become tired of covering fires and stabbings and being put outside to go ‘live’ in the predawn hours of 5 degree below zero mornings.”

This career change ended up being a great decision for Jerry as he loves his job at Wheeling Island.

“I tell people I have the best job at the track.”

The great thing about calling races for Wheeling Island is that Jerry gets the best of both worlds; he is pursuing his childhood dream of announcing and gets to enjoy the greyhound racing action. Jerry’s favorite greyhounds often consist of the pups with creative names. If he likes a name, you can bet that Jerry is a fan of that dog. Run-together names like Benicetoafireman are names that catch Jerry’s interest.

Barts Outofmyway
Barts Outofmyway

This season, at Wheeling so far, Jerry is keeping an eye on Barts Outofmyway (Pictured) and Barts Buymeaboat, who has been doing a great job tearing up the track. Barts Buymeaboat has 8 wins, 7 places, and 11 shows in 42 starts this season so far. Jerry really appreciates the greyhounds that can break out of the box really fast, which we have seen a few times from Barts Buymeaboat.

“They bust out of the box to take big leads and it’s exciting to see if they can hold on at the wire.”

Jerry’s favorite races to call are the championship stakes races, which are full of excitement. This makes announcing the races even more fun. The event that Jerry enjoys the most at Wheeling is their Fourth of July Party on the Apron, which consists of music, food, fireworks, and dancing on the apron after a day of greyhound racing.

Working so long as a track announcer, we asked Jerry what his most memorable call has been over the years. For Jerry, this consisted of the first time he was alone in the announcing booth. He had the nerves and excitement of calling his first race alone, but the thing about starting out is that you lack experience and one thing that Jerry hadn’t experienced yet was calling out prices of a dead heat. Naturally, Jerry’s very first time alone in that booth to call a race, a dead heat came in. Fortunately, Jerry got through it and has now called a ton of races, some of which have included dead heats.

We are so glad that Jerry was able to push through the learning curve of calling races because we enjoy listening to him at Wheeling Island. His energy and love for announcing shines through when he calls races. We couldn’t agree more with Jerry when he says that he has the best job at the track.

We would like to thank Jerry Echemann for speaking with us and sharing his story. Make sure to tune into greyt greyhound racing and announcing by Jerry at Wheeling Island Wednesdays through Sundays. We would also like to thank Stan Pawloski for providing us with pictures. 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 custserv@greyhoundchannel.com.

This Week With The Professor: Hot Kennels

One handicapping factor that is sometimes overlooked is the “hot kennel” factor. It is a known fact that kennels get hot and, of course, vice versa. There can be many reasons that a kennel may get hot and it seems like all the greyhounds in that kennel run to their peak performance.

One may be that the trainer has wormed the kennel. This is done periodically (more frequently in warm climates) to rid the dogs of parasites that they may have picked up. A lot of times this leads to the greyhounds feeling better and running well. If the kennel had gone flat and then picks up, a lot of the dogs had gone down in grade and, when feeling well again, quickly go back to their proper grade.

Another reason could be a change in feed, or training routine. This will often lead to the greyhounds uptick in performance. I can give you an example of this. I once had a kennel owner running a kennel in Florida ask me to take over his kennel because the greyhounds’ performances had fallen off dramatically. When I went into the kennel, I discovered that the trainer had been giving the greyhounds too many supplements in their feed. The kennel was quiet, and the dogs listless. I immediately changed the feed to strictly meat and meal. Within a week the dogs were more lively and noisy in the kennel. The greyhounds were all down in grade and immediately started winning, and running at their top level. We were the leading kennel, by far, for a few weeks and I had several trainers come and ask me what I was giving the dogs to get them to run so well. I told nothing, I just went back to the basics. The dogs had been given so many supplements that their body chemistry had become toxic.

In conclusion, watch out when kennels get hot, and use that knowledge to improve your chances of picking winners.