I usually try to steer clear of incorporating overused pop-culture phrases in my vocabulary. This year, however, thanks to the good folks that run Hanover Raceway, I was fortunate to get the chance to scratch an item off my “bucket list” - a phrase which absolutely applied in this case. If I did have one of these darned “bucket lists”- made famous in the movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson-this item was surely on it.
You see, ever since I was a young boy, I have had this crazy notion that I have what it takes to announce live horse races at the track. My dad, a “lifer” like I guess I now am, started to drag me to the racetrack at a very young age. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. Most often, we would take the bus and subway down to Greenwood Raceway (RIP) to watch what we called “the trots” - and that’s how harness racing became my first love. It didn’t take long for me to demand my parents buy me a small portable tape recorder and as soon as I got it I’d be calling races into that device, re-creating the racing action reading from the result charts in the back of the program. “As they turn for home, Hornby Steve is under a drive!” I would bellow…”HEEEEERE COMES Armbro Versatile raging with pace out of the pocket” might follow…you might also hear “Armbro Ollie is flying up on the far outside…Amrbro Ollie…GETTING UP!!!” I guess the point was I really enjoyed replaying the races over and over with my own calls and dreamed that someday, somewhere, I might get the chance to call a race. Fast forward about 35 years to the quaint half-mile oval at Hanover Raceway. The General Manager, Gord Dougan, The Announcer, Kris Allen and The Marketing Assistant Andrew Hughes must have momentarily lost their marbles, because for some reason, without even so much as having auditioned, I was being given the chance to call the 3rd race at Hanover on October 6, 2012 - my 48th birthday! One way or another, this was going to be a birthday I wouldn’t ever forget!
Luckily, Hanover was about a 2 ¼ hour drive from our home. For about an hour of the trip I practiced calls and memorized the horses names from top to bottom and bottom to top. There was only one name I kept getting wrong - Constant United - which I kept calling “Stonebridge” United for some reason and each time I sat there with a stumped look on my face, my wife-God Bless Her-would remind me by saying “NO! Think of how you are CONSTANT-ly getting it wrong!” It turned out that the 5-year-old Cammibest gelding had the one name I didn’t want to butcher as he featured prominently in Hanover’s 3rd race on my 48th birthday. Here’s how things went in my announcing debut:
I will forever be indebted to my friends at Hanover Raceway - they are solid, down-to-earth dudes. Now that I've buttered them up, maybe they'll let me call another race next year!
News and Notes: This Saturday night, my local track, Woodbine, hosts the 2012 Breeders Crown Finals - 12 championship races featuring many world champions. Two-year-old sensation Captain Treacherous, from the first crop of the great Somebeachsomewhere looks to cap an outstanding freshman campaign with a victory in the 2YO Colt Pace. European superstar trotter Commander Crowe flies in to take on American champ Chapter Seven and local hero Mister Herbie in what promises to be a sensational edition of the Aged Trot. Hambletonian winner Market Share will have his hands full with elimination winners Intimidate and Little Brown Fox. Multiple world champion fillies Check Me Out and American Jewel face off against familiar foes. It is THE greatest card of harness racing of the year. DriveOn will be posting again in the next couple of days with analysis, recommended bets and some value plays, including a 6/1 morning line choice that we absolutely LOVE. Make sure you check back in before Saturday night! We also invite you to tune in to Garnet Barnsdale’s internet radio show “North American Harness Update” at 10 p.m. eastern this Friday evening by clicking on this link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/search/north-american-harness-update/
Special guests include top trainer Tony Alagna who will start the two favorites in the 2YO Colt Pace - Captain Treacherous and Wake Up Peter, who paced a sensational final ¼ in 25.4 in last week’s elimination. Greg Gangle from the Woodbine Entertainment Group communications department will also be along to discuss the action.