GOSHEN – Roger Huston never worked a day in his life.
At least that’s how he feels, because he’s doing something he really enjoys.
According to his tally, Huston, 79, competed in 18,228 races during his career, in multiple states and seven countries. He’s been the master of ceremonies for the Hall of Fame induction for years, and this weekend he made the race calls at Goshen Historic Track for the first two days.
Huston has been coming to Goshen for almost 30 years. He drove amateur races in the early 1990s and was inducted into the Communicators Hall of Fame at the turn of the century. In 2003, he became administrator of the room.
“I’ve been here every year since,” said Huston, who made the nine-hour commute from his home in Grove City, Ohio. “I just feel compelled to come home, just because if they give you such a prestigious award, you want to give back what you can.
“It’s a party, I want to tell you. I have so many friends here, ” he added.
Huston has been synonymous with harness racing appeals, as have Mike Emrick in ice hockey and famed Pittsburgh Steelers radio presenter Myron Cope, a voice Huston admired. Huston is now in semi-retirement, which means he calls about 1,000 races a year compared to 3,500; the rest of the time, he is an ambassador for the Ohio Horsemen’s Association.
Dave Little has taken on most of the Grand Circuit calls in recent years, but he was only able to call on the last day of Sunday due to conflicts with his Meadowlands harness schedule. Thankfully, Huston stepped in to fill the gap, and the thousands of fans in attendance on a rainy Saturday got a taste of his magic.
What to say (and not to say)
Following wise public speaking advice, Huston says capturing the audience’s attention in the first 20 seconds is essential. It’s easy when it comes to harness racing, as the horses pick up speed towards the start line and “There they are!” For the remainder of his two-minute calls, twice on a half-mile track, the key didn’t sound monotonously, all the while calling out creative phrases and using voice inflection. Like any other diffuser, Huston lives for exciting finishes.
“I love ‘nose to nose, butt, stride by stride,” said Huston, who has called the race Little Brown Jug since 1968. “I use’ eighth of a mile to go, in Oh-Uh!” There are (sentences) that you confuse and they are not planned but they just come out. ”
Not all of the sentences come out the way he wanted. Calling a race from Australia, Huston resorted to one of his standard phrases when a horse is overtaken by the interior markers, not realizing the religious overtones. “And here is the Messiah nailed to the railing! He cried. Eight years later, he shakes his head sheepishly at the viral YouTube video.
Most horse racing callers say that having short-term memorization skills is essential. Huston says he uses the downtime between races to go through the race map, reciting the horse’s carpet number, horse’s name, and driver’s name aloud. Another reminder comes as he announces the lineup before the race, and by the time the pitch is gone in the first eighth mile, he has the correct ID cards at the tip of his tongue. Then it’s time to clear the programming from her mind and start over.
The harness game started early for young Roger: when he rode a tricycle around his house, he shouted the names of the horses. Roger’s uncle, Don Huston, started calling races in the early 1950s.
“When I had to come home to study geometry, biology and other things, I would go with him to the Lebanon Raceway in Ohio. Finally, in 1960, he took me to a morning run in Wilmington, Ohio. He said, ‘I have to go to the bathroom… do this after the parade and I’ll be back to race. He hasn’t come back, so I’ve been announcing races for over 62 years. ”
“It’s a good life”
Roger Huston is not a household name, but within the harness community he is considered a legend. Some days Huston will pull out a few races if it is a long map, and some riders will come to see him ahead of time and ask him to call a particular race because they are driving there. Rod Newhart, the race director for the Goshen meet, was disappointed that Huston was not on call for one of his long-standing wins – so he took an audio recording of the race call, a gave the race board sheets to Huston and he recreated the call for a keepsake.
Huston gets a little emotional when someone talks about how much he meant to the sport.
“I get goosebumps when people say that,” Huston said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “My daughter could never understand why people wanted my autograph. This is how I have always tried to be. I don’t care who the person is. I’m going to talk to him and hang out with him and things. ”
It is a trait that has made him loved by so many people. That’s why Huston soaks up the atmosphere of the Hall of Fame weekend, realizing that he doesn’t know how many more he will be able to attend.
“I still have a few years before I hang up,” he said. “It’s a good life. ”
Grand Circuit Day 2
1st – $ 15,000 Pace 1: 56.4
1-So incredible (My MacDonald)
5-Itzpapalotl (Ja Bartlett)
3-Cheers For Chips (Br Boyd)
2nd – $ 15,000 Pace 1: 54.3
2-bolt power (Jo Stratton)
1 fixed stop (Ma MacDonald)
7-Ace of Trevor (Ja Bartlett)
3rd – $ 6,700 Pace 2: 00.1
1-Laure Bullville (Ja Devaux)
3-Take A Chance (The Bailey)
2-Dealonimo (Ja Bartlett)
4th – $ 6,700 Pace 1: 56.2
6-Hurricane Georgia (Ma MacDonald)
2-On the west side (Ja Bartlett)
3-Americanexpression (The Bailey)
5th – $ 4000 at the 2: 02.3 trot
5-PC foreign affairs (Jo Pennacchio)
2-Caravel (Ro Davis)
6 Day Hangover (Sc Woogen)
6th – $ 15,000 Rhythm 1: 56.2
1-Special Tyler (The Bailey)
4-My boy Jack (Ja Devaux)
6-Nuttin But Finesse (Ja Bartlett)
7th – $ 6,700 Rhythm 1: 55.1
2-Sauvignon Bluechip (Ja Bartlett)
4-Teen Copper (Jo Stratton)
6-AB Collins (Ga Dowse)
8th – $ 15,000 Rhythm 1: 55.1
2-Carrington (My MacDonald)
6-Northern countries (Ja Devaux)
4-There was this girl (Ja Bartlett)
9th – $ 6,700 Pace 1: 57.3
3-Worlameri (The Bailey)
4-Miley Rose (Ja Bartlett)
1-Speedi Pearl (My MacDonald)
10th – $ 15,000 Pace 1: 55.4
1-Dance Joe (Jo Stratton)
4-Big show (Ja Bartlett)
2-Crystal Beach (Br Boyd)