“They’re in the gate….and they’re off!!”
For 34 years, Keith Jones has been the voice of horse racing at Parx racetrack in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and has used that signature opening line at the start of literally thousands of horse races.
This past week marked the end of his illustrious career in which he became synonymous with the sounds of northeastern horse racing.
Over those 34 years, Jones has called over 60,000 races which also includes 32 Pennsylvania Derbies. Anyone who has watched a race or two at Parx over the years has heard many of his signature catchphrases which include using the phrase “visiting Romp City” when a horse has blown a race wide open and won by double-digit lengths or when a longshot crosses the finish line first, hearing Jones shout “Hello!” as to signify how the tote board will blow up with the win.
Whether it was a graded stakes race or a maiden $5000 claiming race, Jones always treated each with the utmost respect and dignity and provided true professionalism with every one of his race calls.
While having seen possibly hundreds of thousands of horses over the years, Jones cites Smarty Jones as one of the best he’s had the pleasure to call during his career. Smarty Jones had won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness but fell just short of a Triple Crown run as the horse finished 2nd in that year’s Belmont Stakes.
Listening to his final race call this past Tuesday, you could hear the emotion build from the start of the race. Jones kept his usual trademark professionalism but kept counting off each furlong and giving the fractions almost as an internal count for how much time was left in the race as well as his career. He was able to deliver a final “Hello” as Deep Sea won the race and paid $27.80 to win.
In addition to horse racing, Jones also spent some time calling minor league hockey for the Philadelphia Phantoms as well as occasionally working as an announcer for the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL.
Jones will be missed by racing fans, both casual and hardcore for his professionalism and respect for the game that was evident in each of his race calls over the years.
As if anyone ever needed proof of how things can change in horse racing from one minute to the next, we received the news since our last article that Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law has been forced into retirement due to veterinary advice. Tiz the Law was set to kick off his 4-year-old campaign with an entry in the Pegasus World Cup in Florida later this month but was diagnosed with an undisclosed injury during his workouts. While we are deprived of Tiz the Law’s potential redemption from his last Breeder’s Cup race, this certainly opens up the field of possible winners.
There is some speculation that this was not a surprise since the connections of Tiz the Law had sold his breeding rights as a three-year-old. There is less incentive for owners to continue a racing career beyond 3 years of age once a breeding farm is involved since any possible damage to the horse during workouts or races decreases the value of the horse for potential sires. It is becoming increasingly rare for a graded stakes/Breeder’s Cup winning horse to purse their career beyond 3 years of age which severely dilutes the racing industry of talented winning horses.
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