LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen July  21, 2024


Veteran track announcer John McGary has traveled to pretty much every region in the country over the last two decades calling races. But instead of being on the road at the beginning of the year, he is very happy to be home in Louisiana for his first Louisiana Downs Quarter Horse season.

McGary, 52, was born in Chicago, Illinois, but grew up in Southern California. He began his career in 1993, citing Gary Seibel as his mentor. Seibel, served as the announcer and assistant general manager at Pompano Park, a harness track in Southern Florida. Seibel called the Hambletonian, the country's premier harness championship, and was an on-air analyst for TVG.

"I filled in for Gary, who had some broadcasting commitments for the Hambletonian," said McGary. "He is a very good announcer; silky smooth and very talented as a broadcaster as well. I guess I emulated him pretty well as my nickname in the early days was "Gary, Jr",

From there, McGary crisscrossed the country, calling races at twenty tracks in South Florida, Northern California, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Ohio and Michigan.

He was hired by Evangeline Downs in 2005 as their full time announcer and held that post through 2014. In his next gig, he split his year calling the Thoroughbred races at Louisiana Downs and shifting to Mahoning Valley in Youngstown, Ohio for six months in the winter.

Last year, he opted to call both meets at Louisiana Downs to be closer to home and his wife, Julie.

When he was the voice at Evangeline Downs, he carried on the tradition of saying "ils sont partis" to begin the call of the race. The literal French translation of the expression is "they are gone", but for many reasons, it has a special meaning to racing audiences.

"I like it and more importantly, know that the fans and Louisiana horsemen enjoy it very much," said McGary. "Racing is very special. I love the animals and respect the pageantry and tradition of the sport. I've been a horse owner myself on and off for more than 20 years."

McGary recognizes that when the gates break and the Quarter Horses power down the track at Louisiana Downs, he has a vital role.

"Let's be honest, most track announcers have a face for radio," he joked. " I love what I do, but the races are not about me. "My goal is to be accurate and if some of the calls can be entertaining, that's great as well."

Favorite Quarter Horse Memories

While this is the first time announcing the Louisiana Downs Quarter Horse meet, he called both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds at Evangeline Downs. McGary does not hesitate when asked about his favorite Quarter Horse race call during his tenure in Opelousas.

"It was the LQHBA Breeders Futurity (now the LQHBA Louisiana Million) on Nov 16, 2013," stated McGary. "There was a very tight finish between Ol Time Preacher Man and First Prize Jet, with Ol Time Preacher Man winning by a very short nose for Danny Lavergne and Kenny Roberts. Announcers are our own worse critics, but I really feel that I did justice to that call."

He also has fond memories of millionaire Jls Mr Bigtime winning his LQHBA Trial and scoring in the final.

Handicapping The Quarters

McGary handles the morning-line duties for Louisiana Downs and offers his top three selections for each race.

"Most fans may not know that the morning line is not necessarily the opinion of the odds maker," explained McGary. "There is a formula with points assigned to each horse that have to add up to 100. I strive to give my best estimate for the race. Every race is a pizza; the points all have to add up no matter how many slices."

When handicapping, McGary evaluates speed indexes; connections, including trainer and jockey and class.

He admits he is a fan, and was pleased to greet Kenny Roberts and congratulate him on his AQHA Champion Trainer award.

"I made a trip to the jocks room last week," said McGary. "It was fun talking to the guys who greeted me with "ils sont partis" when I walked in!"

Tony Patterson, executive director of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association (LQHBA), feels that McGary is doing a great job in the 2018 Louisiana Downs racing season.

"The Louisiana Downs meet is very important to our association," said Patterson. "We get the year started and run the Mardi Gras Futurity, which is the first "official" futurity in the country. John is doing an outstanding job and both horsemen and fans are enjoying his energy and race calls."

McGary and his wife, Julie, reside in Bossier City with their two dogs, Bella and Chipper. When he is not working, he enjoys playing tennis, poker and attending concerts, with a preference to the "Classic Rock" genre.

Following the conclusion of the Louisiana Downs Thoroughbred meet in September, McGary will pack his bags and head to Zia Park for their 2018 live racing season. It's a mixed meet with plenty of quality of Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred stakes. He was in the booth for the victory by AQHA world Champion Jessies First Down in the Grade 1, Zia Park Championship last November.

"I spend 13 weeks in Hobbs, New Mexico for the Zia Park meet," he said. "That's a lot shorter than six months in Ohio! I am thrilled to work for Trent McIntosh here and Matt Crawford at Zia. They are both great guys."

This schedule is a win-win for McGary and Julie.

"We're both from Southern California, but love it here in Louisiana," said McGary. "I am very happy to be calling both meets at Louisiana Downs."

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.