Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, April 29

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/01/2011 #


Veteran racetrack announcer John G. Dooley, the voice of Arlington Park throughout the 21st century and the man who also mans the microphones at Louisiana’s Fair Grounds Race Course from November through March, was driving back the 19 hours from New Orleans to his Chicago home base last month when his eyes started playing tricks on him.

“It’s a little hard to describe but basically I started seeing something like a red line developing in my field of vision.  I’d rub my eyes or blink thinking I was just tired from driving and that it would go away,” Dooley said, “but it kept coming back.

“I had a little vacation booked where I was going to fly from Chicago to New York to see my mother in Staten Island briefly, then fly on to Amsterdam and eventually to Kiev for a five-day visit I’d been planning for some time,” Dooley said, “but my eye kept bothering me so I went to an eye doctor to see what was wrong.

“The doctor told me I had a detached retina and would have to have surgery,” Dooley said. “When I asked him if I could continue on my planned trip and have the surgery done when I returned, he told me, ‘No, you have to have this done tonight or you could go blind.’

“Naturally, I followed his advice, postponed my trip and had the surgery done right away,” Dooley said.  “Following my post surgery exam, he told me to come back and see him again in three weeks, so I rescheduled my vacation and just got back to town last week.  If he had said he wanted to see me again in one week, I would have cancelled the whole trip to be on the safe side, but I went ahead with it and I’m glad I did.

“I had a blast in Kiev,” said Dooley.  “I’ve always been a bit of a World War II buff –I’ve been to Pearl Harbor and I’ve been to Normandy – but there’s a museum in Kiev called the Museum of the Great Patriotic War that I’ve always wanted to visit, and it turned out to be everything I expected it to be.

“Also, although the Germans pretty much destroyed Kiev during the War, there is one historic cathedral built in the 11th century that remained intact,” Dooley said.  “It’s called St. Sophia’s and when I visited that and got a sense of all the things that have taken place there over thousand years or so, it turned out to be something of a revelation.

“Experiences like that help you put everything in perspective,” said Dooley.  “Why did my eye problem start developing the day after Fair Grounds completed its season (March 27) and why did the time it’s going to take me to recover allow me to be ready to call races again in time for Arlington’s opening day (May 6)?  It’s like God had the whole detached retina thing planned out for me at this particular time in my life.  It also helps me realize that this is the place I’m supposed to be at this time in my life.

“I’m still recovering and I’ve still got a ways to go,” Dooley said, “but I’ll be able to call the races on opening day at Arlington despite this setback.  In fact, I flew back from Amsterdam to Chicago on the morning of April 21, stopped off at my condo long enough to unpack and change clothes, and was able to fulfill a commitment to Arlington doing a seminar at Trackside Lockport that same night.  So I think everything is going to work out just fine.”