Since 1978, when he first started announcing at Fraser Downs, Dan Jukich’s voice has been a familiar accompaniment to racing fans in the province. He spoke to Off-Track Blogging in his announcer’s booth at Hastings, where he has announced since 1990, where he watches the races with a set of binoculars, stepping on a foot pedal to activate his microphone.
OTB: How did you become interested in calling races?
DJ: Well, it was funny. My dad, Roy, worked for the Vancouver Sun in the Sports department for 25 years, so he covered the races and he knew at point that Jack Short was going to retire and he said to me as all dads do, you know, “I told you you should have went to BCIT and taken up broadcasting.” At the time I was 21 or 22 and I was playing lots of baseball and having fun in the summertime, and why would I want to tie up all my weekends? And then about three or four years later, they were looking for somebody out at the old Cloverdale just for one day as a fill-in and I said, “I can do it.” It progressed from there. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, that’s for sure.
OTB: How did you sound early on? Did you sound different?
DJ: Yeah, I was very hesitant and not as smooth. The biggest part of this is finding your key spots where you want to start, stop, take a break and kind of let the race evolve because you can’t keep going just constantly all the time.
OTB: How much time do you spend in preparation for the races?
DJ: Well, of course I spend… I go through the form and spend about an hour and a half on that to start with. I make my circles, workouts, blinker changes. Then I kind of give it a rest and then I go back and then I look to see for pace, and class and everything else before I make my final selections.
OTB: Do you have any influences? Was there, like, an announcer who was kind of an inspiration for you?
DJ: Not really. I just kind of try and make sure everyone gets the correct information. Do we make mistakes? Of course.
OTB: I notice the cadence of the announcers in these things sound kind of like the galloping of a horse.
DJ: Yeah, a little bit. And you know, it is a very subjective thing. Because it’s the same as – whether it be a talk show host, whether it be the hockey announcer, whether it be a football announcer, baseball announcer, some people like people’s styles; some people don’t.
OTB: When you’re looking at the program, what’s the factor that has the most effect on the race? Pace?
DJ: Speed. You’re always looking to see who’s going to the front because “Pace makes the race,” as they say.
OTB: Some of the horses here have crazy names, like Huitzilopochtli. Do you ever trip on them?
DJ: Yeah, take a look at it, and you would never get it. I actually had to go ask. And I don’t really mind asking any of the owners how to pronounce their names. I don’t care if they want to call them “Charlie Brown” instead of “Charlie Brun,” you know? They pay the money, they name their horses, and I’ll try and accommodate them the best I can.
OTB: Has anyone ever complained about the pronunciation?
DJ: Oh, the odd time. But there again, you just try and change it and correct it.
OTB: Do you have any professional highlights as an announcer?
DJ: It was quite exciting calling my first BC Derby. That was pretty cool. And also, you know, I’ve been fortunate to actually do some movie work, too.
OTB: Really? Which ones?
DJ: The Highlander series. Mom P.I, Black Stallion and Davinci’s Inquest.
OTB: You play announcers in those?
DJ: Yeah. Not on camera. Just strictly voiceovers.
OTB: You work in the off-season doing as Hastings simulcast director. Are you less busy in the off-season than you are in season?
DJ: A little bit, because I don’t have to announce but I still have plenty of work to do with contracts. And don’t forget I sell the Fraser Downs signal as well, so… and also do the Simulcast calendar.
OTB: In recent years, one of the most popular race days for non-racing fans has become the annual Wiener Dog Races. What’s it like calling, um…
DJ (laughs): A bunch of puppies running around in circles? That’s about what they’re doing. Most of them do come out of the gate and go straight for their handlers. Most of them take left or righthand turns and make donuts on the track.
OTB: What’s your favourite part of your job?
DJ: Nothing is the same. It’s always there’s something different going on, which is good because there’s no repetitiveness of this, basically, except talking on the mike in between races sort of thing. I mean, it’s good. There’s lots going on, the people are great. The bettors are great. The owners are great. So it’s actually a fun thing to do. For me, it’s not like I even go to work in the morning. People say, “You happy?” and I said, “Sure!” I mean, when I got out of school you could have gone to work for BC Hydro or BC Tel. I’d probably have 35 years in there, probably have eight weeks’ holidays, but would I be happy? And this is still a lot of fun.Tags: Dan Jukich, Hastings Park, horse racing