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Jason Beem's Thursday Column for April 28, 2022

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April 28th, 2022

A Good Thursday morning to you all! I’m really excited to bring today’s interview to you for a few reasons. No. 1 is that our guest Steve Peery is a member of the Equibase team that calls and writes the chart for the Kentucky Derby. Secondly, Steve is a longtime close friend. I first met him in 2004 at Emerald Downs when I worked in the press box. I used to sit in his office at Portland Meadows when I was practicing announcing on the roof there. I’d come into Equibase and hang out with Steve to get out of the rain that I was standing in to practice. Steve always encouraged me with my announcing and has just been a great friend for over 15 years. He is the East Coast field supervisor at Equibase. Here is my interview with Steve!

Jason Beem: How did you first get into horse racing?

Steve Peery: I was born into racing. My dad was a jockey briefly and trained my entire life, or at least the entire time he was alive after I was born. My mom also trains, her husband Dan Bryson was a jockey and is now a steward. My sister trains and her husband Vince Funk was a jockey and is now a steward. Also my two brothers are deeply involved in the game.

JB: How did you first get involved with calling charts?

SP: I started cleaning stalls for my parents, and my mom fired me. After that, I started working as a groom for other trainers at Playfair Racecourse in Spokane, Washington. At age 15, I went to work as an agent for Akifumi Kato in Spokane and hustled book pretty much from then on. Yakima and Playfair were scheduled to overlap in 1996, I think, and Equibase had just begun collecting chart information along with DRF. Kirk Moore was the Equibase chartcaller in Washington, and he asked if I would like to work for Playfair.

JB: What is the general procedure for charting a race nowadays?

SP: Most generally Equibase track crews are two-person teams. Usually, they will alternate between calling points of call and writing comments and footnotes or doing data collection.

JB: You've been part of the Kentucky Derby chart team for several years. Is that race charted the same as most other races?

SP: This will be my 14th Derby. The simple answer is the Derby is charted the same as every other race. It is, however, a different and daunting task due to the number of horses in the field and the magnitude of the race. One added step we take in charting the Derby is we have one member of the charting team take pictures at every point of call so that we can compare that to what we see and record live during the actual running of the race.

JB: What are the biggest challenges with charting the Kentucky Derby?

SP: It’s the only race in the country with a 20-horse field, and it’s the only race in the world that is read and scrutinized by so many people, so those are our biggest challenges. The pressure to get it 100% accurate while also getting it out to the public as quickly as possible. Our expectation is to be perfect, and there are tons of moving parts to putting the chart out, especially with a 20-horse field. The complaint we hear most often is how long it takes to get the final chart published. I understand the desire for the chart to be available and we strive to deliver as fast as possible.

JB: As far as the comments made in the chart after the race, is that a team effort as well, or does one person do those?

SP: Comments for the Derby chart, like all charts, is a team effort. Matt Metz and Mitch Gerson are the Kentucky chartcallers, and they are a great team and incredible to work with. Usually two people are doing the note. Last year, we broke the field in half and each did 10 horses. The review process after the note is finished is more comprehensive than, say, the lid lifter the following Thursday.

JB: How many tracks have you charted races at?  What's the toughest one, and what's your favorite track you've called charts at?

SP: I have never actually counted the tracks, a lot of them. I have been lucky to travel most of the country and see a lot of tracks. I think Kentucky Downs is the toughest to work. KD is unique and really fun to watch races live, but it is a test. Churchill is my favorite track that still exists. The people I get to work with make every track pretty great.

JB:  Like me, you're from the Pacific Northwest and grew up going to the tracks up there and have worked several jobs in the industry there, but maybe the thing that gives you the most street cred (with me at least) is you actually worked with the great Captain Condo?

SP: Captain Condo was a three-year-old when I worked for his trainer Vaden Ashby at Playfair. He was a great horse, and Vaden and Fern are better people.

JB: You also knew my announcing idol, Gary Henson, who I never got to meet. What can you tell us about Gary?

SP: Gary was great. Like you, I grew up listening to him. He is iconic in the Northwest. Two brief stories — I played golf with Gary a few times, and there is nothing like the voice of racing in Washington calling you an “MF’er” in that voice when you chip in on him. I did the pre-race handicapping show with Gary at Yakima Meadows. One night, I had an exchange of ideas in a bar parking lot and had a black eye and some other scrapes. I told Gary I couldn’t do the show, and he said I absolutely was doing it. He introduced me as Steve Boogaloo Peery, part-time pugilist. He was funny.

JB: Can you tell the Sabretooth/Longacres Mile/New TV story? It’s one of my favorites.

SP: The Longacres Mile is huge to Northwest racing people. It is the race. As an agent, my jock was on Sabertooth, and I believed to my core he would win (18-1) if he could get to the 3/4 pole clear. Nerves were building, and that morning I told my jock when they load you in the gate I was you looking down the track with one thought in your head, I want a big TV. Wire to wire, and the first thing the jock says to me in the winner’s circle after the race was, go get the biggest TV. I bought the TV and named it Sabertooth.

 

Thanks so much Steve!

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