Jim Jacques on retiring – story/interview by James Lamb (Racenet)
The voice of South Australian harness racing, Jim Jacques, is set to call his final ever race at Globe Derby on Saturday night (December 10).
Jacques, who started calling in 1997, joined us to reflect on the highs and lows of his career, including the time he got busted spraying a driver on air and of course that infamous ‘lost voice’ call.
He’s also revealed he’s putting aside $20,000 to try and make some money on the punt in retirement!
THAT GLOBE DERBY CALL IN 2010
Jacques is perhaps best known for losing his voice during a call at Globe Derby back in 2010. He could barely get a word out over the last 400m but soldiered on under duress to deliver one of the most memorable pieces of Australian commentary from the last 20 years. Jacques said he did about 15 radio interviews in the days following the hilarious incident.
“I‘ve always seen the funny side of it and actually love hearing it now to be honest. But put simply, I shouldn’t have gone to work that day,” Jacques said.
“That was my fourth day of calling in a row and I’d developed some cold and flu symptoms over the weekend and I really shouldn’t have called at Port Pirie on the Sunday night. I got through that meeting, just, but then I woke up on Monday morning and my voice was just shocking. I’ve never been one to take a sickie though and because I’d got through Sunday, I thought I might be able to battle through again.
“It was in the very early days of Sky 2 and they‘d introduced these meeting previews to fill gaps. So before even calling a race I had to talk for about 20 minutes. I remember Grant Boyden throwing to me for the preview with ‘now it’s time for the dulcet tones of Jimmy Jacques at Globe Derby’ and I start talking like I’d been gargling gravel. I finished the preview and my voice was completely stuffed, so I rang Brenton Yates (SA broadcaster/caller) and asked if he’d be able to sub in for me. Unfortunately he was at least two hours away so I had to call the first and we all know what happened there.
“David Aldred, who was the CEO of Harness Racing SA, stepped in to call the next two or three races while Yatesy made his way to the track. One thing that gets forgotten from that day is the terrible injury that Danielle Hill suffered in a fall. She fractured her eye socket and she‘s basically blind in one eye because of the incident but the media didn’t want to touch it. All of the attention was on the call instead of Dani’s accident.”
JACQUES ON THE TIME HE GOT CAUGHT ORDERING LUNCH ON AIR
Jacques sent social media alight (it was a Monday in winter – there wasn’t a great deal happening) when his lunch order was inadvertently broadcast to Sky 1 viewers. His choice of beef over chicken divided viewers.
“That was amazing, wasn‘t it? I didn’t even know that had happened until one of the stewards hit me up. He said to me, ‘how was the schnitzel?’ I asked, ‘how do you know I ate that for lunch?’ and he told me it was all over social media. You just never know who is listening or recording.”
THE OTHER TIME HE ACCIDENTALLY WENT TO AIR
“The lunch thing was fine – it was funny – but I got caught out badly another time. I was doing a Sunday night greyhound meeting at Strathalbyn a few years ago and I was having a few bets and things weren‘t going too well. I saw this horse at the trots that I remember had won really well a week earlier. I looked at it and thought it should be odds-on – I couldn’t believe it was $2.50 or thereabouts.
“Everything I’d backed at the dogs that night had copped a check or missed the kick, so I thought I’ll launch into this thing, see if I can get my money back at the end of the night. I didn’t do any real research – didn’t do enough research as it turned out.
“After I backed it, I looked at the betting flucs and it was $1.70 out to $2.50 and I realised pretty early in the race why it had drifted like that. I’ve watched enough trots races to know when a driver is trying and when they’re not, and I don’t reckon this driver was having a crack. So I’m watching this race and I know my fate a long way from home, so I let rip with some colourful language in the box. I may have called the driver a few choice words, dropped a few F-bombs.
“It just so happened that Sky channel had crossed to me early – I didn’t even have my headphones on my head – and my ranting and raving came through on air. The next day I was challenged by the boss and had to own up and say, ‘yep, that was me going off’.
HIS FAVOURITE CALL
“The 2013 South Australia Pacing Cup where we had Caribbean Blaster and Smoken Up is the clear standout. Caribbean Blaster got a metre or so in front but Smoken Up got off the canvas to beat him. The crowd just erupted – I‘d never heard anything like it. The South Australian crowd really made that race and call.”
FAVOURITE HORSE HE CALLED
“Probably my favourite horse that I‘ve called is Blacks A Fake. He won the 2007 Interdominion here (in SA) – that was his second Inter Dom win and he ended up winning four of them.”
BEST PERFORMANCE SEEN IN SA
“Best performance I‘ve seen in South Australia, and I wasn’t actually calling, was from Pride of Petite in the trotters Inter Dom in 1997. It was a 3000m race and she came off the back mark. She was no closer than three-wide for the last mile but came from back in the pack to boom over the top of them. That was an unbelievable performance.”
BEST DRIVER OVER THE JOURNEY AND BEST DRIVE
“I think the best driver I‘ve seen and called in SA is Geoff Webster. He just had this incredible ability to get out of pockets and you could always back him with confidence. He was a real ‘Mr Cool’ – just sitting back, showing no real emotion, and then he’d make his move. Ross Sugars was also very good.
“The best drive I‘ve called though was by David Harding. It was a race at Port Pirie – April 21st, 2012. He was driving a horse called Graybuck and in the run I’m thinking, ‘geez mate, you’re too far back here – you can’t win from there’. He was back last, a mile off the leader, and then he just got to the outside and gunned this horse down the back straight and it ended up winning by a space. A lot of drivers just follow the horse in front and wait for their opportunity but he made the opportunity.”
WHY JIM’S RETIRING
“The main reason is because my voice is shot. That‘s probably 80% of the reason and the rest is my passion has waned. I used to love doing the form for every race I’d be calling, spending 20 hours a week on video replays and research, but I can’t do that now. I’m worn out from it.”
WHAT HE’LL MISS MOST
“When I was really enjoying my work, I used to love getting down in amongst the crowd in between races and having a chat with punters. I‘d go to the betting ring and see what was happening, but we haven’t had a bookmaker at Globe Derby for years. Things have changed.
“What I‘ll probably miss most is the participants. I get a real kick out of seeing a driver or trainer record their first win, or someone notching up a milestone like 100 wins for the season, stuff like that.”
PLANS IN RETIREMENT
“Firstly, take it easy and live it up. I‘ve always been a punter, so I’ve got a couple of plans around betting strategies and making a wage from that every week. I’m allocating a bank of $20,000 to do that and if I blow the bank, that will be it in terms of gambling. Hopefully the corporate bookies will let me on for a bet though. It’s getting harder and harder to find new ones that don’t want to shaft you.
“Three grandchildren, who are always the highlight of my week, will keep me busy enough too.”
Thank you to James Lamb (Racenet) for this story.