Click the video to see Jim Peake in action at Derby Lane!
First, tell us a little about yourself.
I am 52 years old, born in Charleroi, PA (30 south of Pittsburgh) and a graduate of Charleroi High School (1976). Followed my father's footsteps and went to work in the steel mills of Pennsylvania (Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel) until 1985. Came to Florida in 1986 and got a job at World Jai Alai in Tampa until 1995. I have been calling races at Derby Lane since 1995. Married, been with my wife and best friend for the last 11 years.
How did you become a track announcer, and what brought you to Derby Lane?
Worked with the Voice Of Tampa Jai Alai and one of the best ever, Mark Beiro (also known for his Boxing and Battle Bots fame). He told me that I should try it and would be a natural. I did, and began to call Jai Alai there for 6 years from 1989-1995. Then as Jai Alai was beginning to falter in Tampa, was led across the bay to greyhound racing in St. Petersburg, fell in love with it and the rest is history. Have been the Voice of Derby Lane since 1995 and have called over 65,000 races there.
What is the strangest thing you have seen happen during a race?
It was during a schooling race years back. As the dogs were coming past the first time, one of them stopped right at the escape turn and decided to make a hard left and into the infield. He went running across the infield and towards the lake that is on the other end of the track and (I can’t remember his name, but the last part of it was Diver) you can just figure what happens next. He jumped the rowboat that is there and wow, what a leap. Of course everyone rushed to the lake and there he was, old Diver swimming along doggy style. He swam to the edge and they pulled him out.
You have called tens of thousands of races. Who is the greatest racer you have ever witnessed?
I think the best that I have ever called was Talentedmrripley. He was a great dual distance runner with stakes victories in both distances. He is the king of all greyhounds, currently living right in the Greyhound Hall Of Fame in Kansas as host greyhound. You can see him every day there. They say he loves to be king.
What advice would you give a new racing fan coming to play the greyhounds for the first time?
Come to the track and enjoy yourself. At Derby Lane, you can relax in the grandstand, have a great meal in the Derby Club, go trackside and enjoy watching the talented greyhounds zoom around the track. As far as wagering for the first time players, play win, place and show. You my not win a ton of money, but you will cash more tickets and that’s always more fun!!!
What is your favorite stakes series that Derby Lane hosts each year?
I like the $100,000 Distance Classic. It’s the second big stakes of the spring season and by that time you have a pretty good idea who the top stars are. Also, in some of the past classic's we have had some of the best dogs in the country come south and try to take on our derby dogs. I think it’s the toughest and most exciting tournament of the year.
Excluding yourself, who would you choose to call a big race?
I like Joe Ross, a guy who has been in the business for a while and is very good at what he does. He is very clear and calm as he calls a great race. I was in Arizona when I first met him, he now calls races at Orange Park Kennel Club (Jacksonville). A good caller and a good guy!!
In your opinion, what is one thing the industry could do to create more interest in the sport?
We need a “Big Day”, a Breeders’ Cup type of event, an end of the year championship. Have all the great greyhounds from the year battle it out for top awards and cash. I would love to see that happen at our track once a year. It would be something to point to and very exciting for fans all over the country.
As the world's oldest continuously operating greyhound track, what makes Derby Lane special?
Derby Lane is special because of the people that work here. Many have been here for a long time and enjoy the sport. They enjoy working with our fans to make it a great day/night of fun and excitement. Derby Lane is the “Home of the Greyhound Racing” and our people make it that way. Having fun is our goal.
On a day off, Jim Peake likes to...?
Well, there is not that many of them (ha, ha). When I do get some time, I love to work around the house, have a nice dinner with my great wife, relax and enjoy everything that this great area has to offer.
GreyhoundNews would like to sincerely thank Jim Peake for taking the time to answer our questions. We hope you enjoyed his answers as much as we did. If you are a greyhound racing fan make sure to plan a trip to Derby Lane, you won't be disappointed. You can also hear Jim call the races live on your computer 6 days a week.
Official Derby Lane Web Site: http://www.derbylane.com/
Watch Derby Lane LIVE: http://www.derbylane.com/live.asp
Follow Jim Peake on Twitter: http://twitter.com/voiceofdl