Jessica Paquette embraces challenges, and as the newly hired announcer at Parx Racing, she is the only full-time female announcer in horse racing. Opportunities for women’s voices in sports continue to grow, and at the recent FIFA World Cup, women sports commentators and announcers represented Fox Sports, BBC, and Telemundo. Also, major league sports including the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB rely on female reporters, announcers, and commentators.


Photo Credit to Kim Pratt

Paquette’s positive attitude and “just say yes philosophy” helped her achieve her career goals and helped her through tough times recently after she broke her back in October 2021. A long-distance runner, Paquette was determined to overcome her injury and participate in this year’s Chicago Marathon. She achieved her goal and completed the 26.2-mile marathon in October 2022, just one year after her injury.


A native New Englander, Jessica fell in love with horses as a young girl and discovered horse racing at Rockingham Park in Salem, NH. As a city girl, her horse activities were limited, but she was determined to include horses in her life. She joined Kids to the Cup which inspired her to pursue a career in the racing industry. Started by Trudy McCafferty in the late 90s, Kids to the Cup was a nonprofit national youth organization for kids ages 8 – 16 with a passion and love for horse racing. They organized trips to major races where kids participated in meet-and-greet events with well-known trainers and famous jockeys. They met top horses up close and got an overall view of the racing industry. Paquette’s involvement with Kids to the Cup was instrumental to her success.


Jessica worked as a hot walker at Rockingham Park and interned in the publicity department. Her next move was to Suffolk Downs in Boston where she got an internship and then worked in publicity until the track closed in 2019. “I was vice president of marketing and a broadcast and handicap analyst. I did whatever was needed. The first time I called a race was in 2014 when the announcer couldn’t make it because of the weather. I pitched in and announced until he came back. It was great,” explained Paquette. “Sadly Suffolk closed forever, and after being there for 13 years, I had to move on.”


Photo Credit to Kim Pratt

Recently, she was director of communications for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. “Aftercare really matters to me. I own 2 retired racehorses. I followed a horse throughout its racing career, and I was lucky to be able to buy him after he retired from racing. My life revolves around horses and dogs,” stated Paquette.


After Suffolk closed, Jessica accepted a position at Colonial Downs and at Sam Houston as a broadcast and simulcast analyst. “At Sam Houston, I was able to call some Quarter Horse races, and I was hooked,” she recalled. When Parx Racing needed a track announcer after Chris Griffen moved on to Aqueduct and Monmouth Park, Paquette was hired for the job. She took over the mike in November 2022. “I’m honored to get to do something that is a milestone in the industry. I’m extremely lucky and stubborn. You have to love racing because it’s all-encompassing. It’s not what I do, but what I am,” described Paquette. Calling races is a tough job. The announcer has to memorize the horse’s names for every race on the card and memorize the colors of the jockey’s silks for each horse. “Before I get to the track, I start going over the races while I’m blow-drying my hair. I get to the track early in the morning and watch the workouts, and then I study the racing form and continue memorizing,” explained Paquette. She continued, “I believe in connecting people to the horses. It’s all about the horses, and we have to educate the public about racing. I encountered a lot of criticism at the start here, but my skin is thick. I came back from a broken back, so mean tweets don’t scare me. The camera crew and everyone at Parx are great. I’m still learning, and I’m getting lots of tips and pointers from my announcer friends. I relish the experience, and I’m devoted to the sport. I hope to inspire the next generation of women in my field.”


Cover Photo Credit to Kim Pratt

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