An unmistakable treasure on the American Racing landscape, the indefatigable Jon White is back for his 11th year as Santa Anita's highly respected Morning Line Maker as the track readies for its 23-day Autumn Meet opener this Friday, Sept. 27.
A proud native of Spokane, WA, White's affinity for horse racing traces back to trips with his late father to tracks such as Playfair in Spokane and Yakima Meadows, where his dad worked in their pari-mutuel departments.
Upon graduating from Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane (“ESPN's Neil Everett went there too”), White soon set about a career in racing that has seen him cast in a myriad of roles in a number of different states. (White is also quick to point out that he attended Eastern Washington University, where he noted, the LA Rams' Cooper Kupp also attended, as did Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd).
“I've been in racing 45 years now and I've been involved in many different aspects,” said White, who is also married to popular racing writer Tracy Gantz, whose stories appear in BloodHorse Magazine and The California Thoroughbred, which is published by the CTBA. “I started out in 1974 as a chart-caller and columnist with Daily Racing Form at Northwest tracks and I got promoted in 1981 to the position of reporter-columnist here at Santa Anita and all the other Southern California tracks.
“The racing during that period of time was incredible, as were the jockeys and trainers that I dealt with on a daily basis. In 1986, they assigned me to be the DRF chart-caller and I worked on this circuit in that positon until 1993.”
In addition to his print career at Daily Racing Form and as a free-lancer for several industry publications, White has also toiled as a racing steward in various locales—Yakima Meadows (1979), Les Bois Park in Boise, ID (1990s) and has been a licensed CHRB steward since 2010. His most recent CHRB assignment put him in the stewards' stand at this year's Los Alamitos Summer Thoroughbred Meet in July.
Following the 1993 Del Mar meeting, White hired on with the newly created HRTV, working as an on-air racing personality for some 20 years until taking his current position as Santa Anita's Morning Line Maker.
With a soft spoken, low key demeanor that belies an intense passion for racing, White's historical perspective and broad-based knowledge are legendary in racing circles. Following is a question and answer session with White, who will also be making the official morning line for this year's two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships on Nov. 1 & 2.
Q Who's your all-time favorite horse?
A No question, it's (Washington-bred) Turbulator. He didn't race as a 2-year-old because he became so ill that he very nearly died. He didn't race as a 3-year-old because he severely injured a knee on a farm. His breeder, owner and trainer, Tom Crawford, then tried to trade the horse for two cows. But due to the injured knee, the swap didn't take place. Turbulator finally did make it to the races as a 4-year-old in 1969. He lost his first three starts, but then won seven straight in just nine weeks from six furlongs to two miles at Playfair. In 1970, Turbulator broke three track records, one of those also being a world record. In another of his 1970 victories, he carried 134 pounds. A huge fan favorite, there were Turbulator T-shirts, coffee mugs, campaign buttons and refrigerator magnets, all items I possess to this day, along with two of the shoes he wore when he broke the world record for 6 ½ furlongs.
Q Favorite all-time jockey?
A Laffit Pincay, Jr., although Bill Shoemaker, Gary Stevens, Eddie Delahoussaye and Joe Baze, Russell's father, certainly all rank right up there. I've said many times that if I ever needed a horse to win a race or I would die, I would pick Laffit to ride the horse. On the last day I was ever at Longacres, in a prime example of Laffit's sheer strength on horseback, he won the 1986 Longacres Mile by a neck on Skywalker. I flew back to LA on the plane with Skywalker and his trainer, Michael Whittingham. Skywalker would go on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic later that year with Pincay aboard.
Q Favorite all-time trainer?
A It's a dead heat between Charlie Whittingham and Laz Barrera. I was very lucky to get to know them both quite well. They were incredible horsemen and wonderful people. I miss them a lot.
Q Favorite all-time race?
A It's another dead heat, this time Secretariat's spectacular 31-length Belmont Stakes victory to sweep the Triple Crown in 1973 and Zenyatta's sensational win in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, which I saw in person…As I stood in the mass of humanity during Zenyatta's furious late charge to become the first female Thoroughbred to ever win the Classic, I was so overcome with emotion that I had tears in my eyes.
Q You've had so many great moments in racing, I know Justify's Kentucky Derby win last year ranks way up there?
A As we all know, Justify didn't make it to the races until Feb. 18 here at Santa Anita. I managed to get a one hundred dollar future book wager on him at 100 to one to win the Kentucky Derby, so that was pretty incredible. But my biggest score was hitting a Pick Six at Santa Anita that paid $45,981. It was on Dec. 28, 2003, and I did it on a $120 ticket.
Q If you retired tomorrow, what would you do for kicks?
A I honestly don't know. My feeling is I will cross that bridge when I get to it.
White, who has also penned a weekly racing column for Xpressbet.com since 2004, will be making the official Breeders' Cup morning line for the sixth time this Nov. 1 & 2.
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