Huston Heading To Wales

Published: August 12, 2009 10:09 pm EDT

Move over, Tom Jones. Your beloved homeland is about to honour a new voice


It happens Friday, August 28, when Roger Huston, longtime voice of The Meadows Racetrack & Casino and the Little Brown Jug, serves as guest caller for the “Electric Mile,” a special race that the Tregaron Trotting Club of Wales is assembling to challenge the world record for pacers on a half-mile turf track.

Huston, who last December called the 150,000th race of his Hall of Fame career, has journeyed to Norway, Sweden, Finland and Australia to announce races. By his count, Tregaron will be the 126th venue where he has called a race.

“I’ve always said that if anybody asks me, I’ll go anywhere to announce a horse race,” Huston said. “This is an opportunity to add a location. I’m at the point in my career when I may not get as many invitations.”

The Huston-to-Wales connection took shape during 2003 Jug week, where Tregaron club members introduced themselves to Huston. They were mesmerized by Huston’s calls on Jug day, when David Miller won 10 races. Club Chairman Huw Evans told Huston:

“‘It’s Miller Time!’ is still a catch phrase among the gang of us who attended that day . . . you can’t have a world record set without Roger Huston there to call . . .”

Indeed, the World Record attempt is part of a three-day Festival of Harness Racing modeled on the Delaware County Fair. It features the Welsh Classic as signature race; a “Little Welsh Dragon” race based on the Jug, and a Junior Welsh Dragon event. As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, the festival is expected to attract more than 350 horses competing in as many as 40 races.

Harness fans throughout the UK are selecting the field for the world record attempt; based on their votes, 10 candidates will be narrowed to a six-horse field. The current Tregaron record is 2:01. A Matts Scooter offspring named Ayr Glory bettered that mark last year but was not credited with the record.

“The track distance was not officially measured,” Evans explained. “Therefore, the record does not stand . . . given fast ground, there are horses in this country capable of going under two minutes on grass.”

Huston, who has undertaken some on-line research to prepare for his date, has discovered that horses in Wales race counterclockwise as they do here, and that they wear saddle pads as North American Standardbreds do.

“In Scandinavia, they use little square numbers on the horses’ sides rather than saddle pads,” he said. “The timing is totally different there, too. One year in Norway, I put a stopwatch on the horses and announced the times I got. They asked me to stop - too confusing.”

He doesn’t plan to modify his basic approach.

“I won’t change anything,” he insists. “The way I announce is what got me here.”

According to some horsemen who camped near the Tregaron group at the 2003 Jug, the Welsh enjoyed their Delaware visit pretty much 24/7.

“Legend has it they never went to bed,” Huston said. “Being a guy who never parties much, I may be out of place. But I won’t change that either.”

Nevertheless, if you’re at Tregaron on Aug. 28 and hear a distinctly American voice belting out a lusty chorus of What’s New, Pussycat?, you’ll know at once who it is.

(The Meadows)