The Sport of Kings lost one of its kings when JJ Graci passed away peacefully amongst his loved ones yesterday. JJ passed after a brief but fierce battle with a newly found illness.
JJ’s contributions to the sport he loved and gave so much to would take a book to fill. To start he remains the winningest trainer in the history of Atlantic City racetrack. JJ Graci trained horses won 788 times from 6028 starts and earned just shy of six million dollars. Since 1962 when he entered the sport his passion never waned through the good times or the bad.
While his resume in the game is lofty, a perennial leading trainer, someone who turned claiming horses into stakes performers, a man who brought racing coverage to new levels in a pioneering way he never sought or received credit for, this is not what defines JJ to those who knew him best. JJ was a loyal person who never said no to a friend. He was old school, unfiltered, and you always knew exactly where you stood with him. JJ was one of the first people to believe in, support and help Past The Wire grow. He will always be one of us and always be with us. We didn’t always agree, but we enjoyed a healthy argument with JJ as he did with us. At the end we remained on the same team. JJ was truly a Damon Runyon character and a racetracker to the core. I am not nearly a talented enough writer to do him any justice. He’d argue that on my behalf. JJ always had my back.
I met JJ when he reached out to me during the infancy of Past The Wire. He told me I wrote pretty good, and asked me if I wanted to be on his radio show. I had never been on a show before and told him yes let’s talk again in a few weeks and set something up. I told him I needed to prepare mentally as I never did anything like that before. JJ said prepare fast, I’ll call you back at 3pm which is less than an hour and we’ll be live on the air from Gulfstream Park. Talk soon he said and hung up.
We went on to do regular shows together and he taught me a lot. He became a contributor to Past The Wire and never refused anything I ever asked of him.
Born in Philadelphia, Pa. Father of two grown children and grandfather of two. Attended Villanova University. Graci has vast experience in horse racing and broadcasting. JJ has been a fixture in the Thoroughbred Horseracing Industry since 1962 as both an owner and a trainer. In fact, he still holds the record as the most winning trainer at Atlantic City Race Course; not to mention the multiple titles he’s held at Garden State Race Course in New Jersey
In 1985 he made his debut on national television in a special called “NUTTIN BUT A HORSE RACE” on WNEW, New York. JJ was campaigning a horse named Irish Sur on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Graci was the Delaware Valley’s Hometown boy. He was such a natural in front of the camera in the special that he caught the eye of NBC. As a result Graci was hired as expert analyst on the NBC broadcast of The Jersey Derby.
JJ landed a similar position on “Philadelphia Park Live” the following year. Later he formed Equine Network Productions, a production company specializing in video concepts for the thoroughbred horseracing industry. That same year as both executive producer and host, J.J. released “AT THE RACES!” and the show immediately brought recognition to both Graci and his production company, the audience swelled from 105,000 to 2.5 million viewers. AT THE RACES was seen throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The program garnered the Cape Award for programming excellence in New Jersey for five consecutive years and received Best Sports Program, Best Sports Series, Best Single Sports Program, and Producer of the Year awards as well.
After the initial success of AT THE RACES, Mr. Graci wasted no time in expanding his reach in the cable television industry. He quickly began work on feature pieces for other broadcast programs such as THE WINNERS CIRCLE, DOWN THE STRETCH and RACING ACROSS AMERICA!
As a result of his TV prowess, WIP Sports Radio, Philadelphia sought to add him to their list of personalities by naming him co-host of AT THE RACES, the first radio program devoted to horseracing. Due to the shows initial success Graci was asked to host a daily program called “J.J. GRACI‘S CALL TO THE POST”, followed soon after by the acclaimed “IT’S POST TIME WITH J.J. GRACI”! WIP received a local Emmy Award for the broadcast of the Jersey Derby hosted by JJ Graci.
In 1999 JJ relocated to South Florida where he immediately made his mark by winning Calder’s 2000 Breeders Cup Handicap with the Cinderella Horse of the Year CYBIL. Cybil was a $2,200 Keeneland Sale purchase and earned almost $300,000 in her career.
Graci re-established his radio career in Florida with AT THE RACES which was aired on Fox Sports radio from 2002-2004. The advent of the internet gave Graci a new venue to increase his audience as the show was broadcasted on attheracesandbeyond.com. As the show became more popular nationally, Sirius radio saw the potential of the show and added it to it’s’ sports talk schedule. The show debuted on Sirius Satellite radio in the summer of 2005. Sirius has approximately 10 million subscribers.
In 2004 JJ became the spokesperson for Team Afleet Alex, during the career of the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner. Graci and his partner, Anita “Samm” Saint Clair, are credited for establishing the fund raising efforts between Team Afleet Alex and Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Approximately 3 million dollars was raised for children’s cancer research directly through their efforts. JJ and Samm were considered instrumental in the connections receiving their special eclipse award.
In 2006 Cecil Peacock, a Canadian power company owner sought out and hired JJ to represent his horse Brother Derek in his triple crown quest.
In 2008 JJ moved to the Detroit area for the opening of the new thoroughbred track. He continued broadcasting both sports and local talk. He also created Jolt Nation.com which aired a Crime Scene Show, a legal show and High School sports as well as other local events.
Once back in South Florida and hearing the issues facing the Thoroughbred industry… it was time to jump back in to the proverbial saddle and do “It’s Post Time with JJ Graci” once again in addition to a morning talk show. In addition to doing radio he started a company called The Dominator which makes Herbal Blends for horses.
In 2018 JJ returned to his Native Pennsylvania. JJ continued to do At the Races, on Blog Talk Radio weekly. The Dominator line of Herbal Blends continues to grow with its Respiratory, Bleeder Pain Blends which can be found on theherbhorse.com.
Throughout the years JJ has done shows from various tracks such as Parx, Monmouth, Garden State, Fairgrounds, Oaklawn, Meadowlands, Charlestown and Colonial Downs.
JJ Graci Documentary “Nuttin But a Horse Race” Ny, NY, “Philadelphia Park Live” Philadelphia , “JJ Graci’s Call to the Post” WIP All Sports Radio Philadelphia, “It’s Post Time” Suburban Cable NJ, “At the Races” WWAC Atlantic City and Fox Sports Miami, “At the Races and Beyond “ Foster sports radio Miami, WWNN Boca Raton and Sirius Satellite Radio, New York, NY, Community Chat WLCO and WQUS Lapeer, MI, Crime Scene with Byron Konschuh WLCO, WQUS, Charter Cable and Joltnation.com, The Ed Farrell Show WLCO, Joltlive.tv, Ustream and joltnation.com. Contributing Author and Host Past The Wire
Film “First Saturday in May” (cameo appearance), Tribeca Film Festival, NY and Barbaro (cameo).