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Behind the binoculars: Jessica Paquette is North America’s only full-time racetrack spokesperson. Photo: Nikki Sherman/Equi-Photo
Rarely has a girl ever labored as a full-time observe commentator — however Jessica Paquette bucked the development for the present gathering in Parx, Pennsylvania. Interview by Jon Lees
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: From her place excessive in the grandstand at Parx Racetrack in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, Jessica Paquette broke by means of a glass ceiling.
On Monday, November fifteenth, the pioneering Paquette took the binoculars and mic to her cabin to start her new job as North America’s only full-time observe announcer.
Not many ladies have preceded her when it got here to calling the horses, nearly completely a males-only occupation, till 37-year-old Paquette took cost of a mare and mare claimer, the first of ten race playing cards to at least one Turn signaling second for the racing trade.
Mind you, Race 1 at Parx had some difficult horse names for a debut commentator, like Thefabulous Moolah and A Bit Bad N Boujee. Paquette conquered the inevitable pre-race jitters and narrated the motion to her new viewers each on and off the observe. When confronted with a muddled finish to the competitors, she nonetheless had the quickness of thoughts to log off at the line with a Neat quip, saying, “Oui madame says ‘yes’ on the line!”
A number of glitches
“There were a few glitches in the early stages, but I was happy with how I recovered,” she says. “I don’t think it’s necessarily how things are going, it’s how you end them and recover from them. I learn at work.”
Thoroughbred Daily NewsAs a woman in the voice booth, Paquette doesn’t have many female predecessors. Some 60 years ago, Ann Elliott served four years at Jefferson Downs, while Angela Hermann spent a brief stint at Golden Gate Fields in 2016; She is now a track handicapper at Canterbury Park.
A New England native, Paquette brings 20 years of experience elsewhere on the track. Raised in Lowell, Massachusetts, she was a regular at the now-defunct Rockingham Park — about 20 miles away in Salem, New Hampshire — before working as an intern at the much-missed venue and then relocating to Suffolk Downs.
After the demise of that beloved Boston racetrack, Paquette worked as a race analyst at Colonial Downs in Virginia and with Sam Houston in Texas, most recently as communications director for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation – a position close to home as she owns a pair of retired Thoroughbreds herself .
Occasionally she had lined up to phone races at Suffolk Downs and Sam Houston, an experience that led to her being offered Parx Racing’s soon-to-be-vacated full-time position.
Huge adrenaline rush
“I was announcing my first race at Suffolk Downs in 2014 when a tornado prevented our announcer from being on time,” she recalls. “I believed it was an remoted case. It has an enormous adrenaline rush and a number of enjoyable.
“A few years later, in 2020, an opportunity presented itself at Sam Houston’s to fill a weekend with Quarter Horses. I had to do it again the following year and realized it was something I would want to do with some experience and if I did it regularly as the next challenge, the next mountain to climb.”
She continues, “I think the people at Parx knew I was interested. So from now on I will be at Parx every Monday. Racing all year round is such a treat for someone like me who just can’t get enough of being on the track.”
Paquette’s breakthrough has drawn a number of feedback, each optimistic and damaging, however she is aware of she’s not the completed article and can develop into the function. “Being the only girl doing one thing opens up a number of opinions, good and unhealthy, and Parx is an enormous racetrack with a number of eyes on it,” she says. “I’m positively not hiding in the nook right here.
“I’m brand new to this, very green,” she admits. “I still have a lot of room for improvement; It’s a long way before I’m really good at it. Some criticism is not unfounded, but everyone starts somewhere.”
The finest suggestions got here from her fellow solid members, significantly shut good friend Jason Beem, in addition to Travis Stone and Kurt Becker. “They gave really, really helpful tips that have already helped me take a small step forward,” she says.
Like a sponge
“At this point, I’m like a sponge. Being green allows me to absorb as much as possible, and I appreciate any industry advice from people who have been doing this for decades.”
The advice will feed into her work through next summer, when she will also race at Parx’s two G1 signature races, the Pennsylvania Derby and the Cotillion Stakes. “Hopefully I’ll be actually prepared for it then!” she grins.
“I hope that one day there will be more female race callers. I got where I got to because other women in broadcasting paved the way for me. If I could open the door for another woman to come up and follow her dream, that would be great.
“In sport in general, the tide is changing and people are getting a little more used to having a female voice play-by-play rather than just being a reporter on the sidelines.
“Growing up, it by no means occurred to me that being a observe announcer was a job a girl may do as a result of I’d by no means heard one, so I believe illustration is essential.”
• Visit the Parx Racing website
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