Tioga Downs will begin the 2017 racing season in less than a week and when it does, a new announcer will be at the mic.
John Horne Jr. will become the voice of Tioga Downs this year. Horne has been an employee at Tioga for the past three years, working as an assistant to the judges as well as filling in as the track’s back-up announcer. Horne has also filled in at several other tracks around the state as well as Tioga's sister track, Vernon Downs.
Horne, who originally hailed from Middletown, New York, now lives with his wife Richi and son JT in Worcester, New York. Horne comes to Tioga from the Baseball Hall of Fame, where he still currently works as the Coordinator of Rights & Reproductions, a position he’s held for the last 21 years.
“We’ve watched John grow as an announcer these past few years. He’s called all sorts of other sports, predominantly baseball, but his love for the sport of harness racing has fueled his desire to become a track announcer,” said Jason Bluhm, Director of Racing at Tioga. “I can remember when he interviewed for the judge’s assistant position a few years ago, one that only offers few hours and not much of a chance at making any serious money. I remember looking at his application and seeing he lived over an hour and a half away and thought to myself, there’s no way this guy will want to drive here every day for these few hours. When I asked him about it, John replied that he loved the sport and his ultimate goal was to become an announcer and here we are today watching him realize that dream.”
Horne replaces former Tioga Downs race caller James Witherite. Witherite was the announcer for three years.
“He [Witherite] will be a hard act to follow,” said Horne. “He has been my mentor since day one. I wouldn’t be here without him."
Horne will call his first race of the season on May 6 at 5 p.m.
(With files from Tioga Downs)