The familiar voice of John G. Dooley will be replaced on Sunday at Arlington as veteran Indiana Grand announcer Bill Downes takes the booth for the sixth race on the card. The race is named in honor of his father, William Downes III.
William Downes III didn't grow up in racing, and was never introduced to it by friends or family. He simply became a fan of the sport and made Arlington Park his second home.
In 1979, Downes senior introduced his partner in crime to Arlington Park, his son Bill Downes. The younger Downes quickly became interested in the sport and vividly remembers and cherishes the memories he made with his father at the track.
“My Dad and I were very close all of my life, going to the track was our thing, it was just what me and him did,” explained Downes. “I remember being there for the first Arlington Million with him. I loved John Henry and so did he, so it was such an incredible experience for us when he came here and we got to see him run. It seems like, looking back, we were always there. I remember being there with Dad for Miracle Million, there's so many great memories I have with him there that are also a big part of Arlington's history.”
For Downes, the opportunity to call a race at Arlington named in his father's memory is very meaningful.
“It certainly means a lot to be able to call it at Arlington,” he said. “If I could sit down and count how many times Dad was at Arlington I don't think there would be enough time in the day, so getting to call it there is meaningful to me.
“It's also special because I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, this was our home. I was the backup announcer and I remember once John Dooley got sick. I think I was in Ohio and for whatever reason I never got the call when Arlington tried to get in touch with me, so they went with someone else. This will be my first and probably only call I will have at Arlington.”
Downes does have small concerns that calling a race in honor of his late father at a track with so many memories could turn out to be quite emotional.
“That's going to be the tough thing,” said Downes. “At the end I may have to fight it a tiny bit, but the good news is it's a quick five-furlong sprint with a full field of eleven horses so from an announcer's standpoint, they're in the stretch before you know it. I may throw something in there at the end, just something quick. I usually don't plan out anything in my calls. I'll have a few things in the back of my mind but I'll just go with something short and sweet.”
The catalyst behind this idea came from long time Arlington announcer John G. Dooley. Dooley has called the races at Arlington for years, and has known Bill Downes for over 15 years. He knew that stepping aside and allowing Bill to call the race in his father's memory would mean a lot to him.
“I knew his father for a long time, and of course I've known Bill for a long time as well,” Dooley said. “I worked in Ohio at Thistledown with Bill. I appreciated his father being such a big supporter of Chicago racing and Arlington. When I saw Bill after Derby he mentioned the race being run here in honor of his father and that's where this idea started. We got it all approved and I'm certainly glad Bill will get to honor his father at this track that meant so much to the both of them.”
Bill Downes will call the sixth race on Sunday May 26. It is a Starter Allowance race with a field of eleven going five furlongs on the turf. Approximate post time is set for 4:10 PM CDT
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