Trenton, NJ — Thomas Svensen has done a little bit of everything in the harness racing world and wanted to share his wealth of knowledge.
Thus, the Norwegian has parlayed his experiences into an informative podcast, which he co-hosts with trainer/driver Marcus Johansson.
Entitled “Harness Racing: Our View,” the show can be found free on Spotify. The duo sent test shows out to various folks in the industry and got enough positive feedback that the podcast debuted on June 21. They have done 13 shows entering Hambletonian Week and have been delighted with the response.
“I didn’t expect the people to be enjoying it so much,” Svensen said. “I was expecting more that people were going to be critical of both of us. I have opinions and Marcus has opinions. We decided to go for it. We try to report about harness racing especially on the East Coast and see it from my view as a handicapper and a trainer and buying horses, and from Marcus, who has driven many races.
“After a couple weeks people were talking to us about advertising. We haven’t done anything (with ads) yet, but I think the plan is we’re going to go on more platforms in the future like YouTube. I know we have many listeners in Europe. And we hope we can get more emails from people about subjects and who they want us to interview. We like to have a guest every day.”
The podcast impressed the Hambletonian Society’s Ryan Macedonio so much that he brought the two on board for a Society-sponsored show discussing the Hambo eliminations. The show was posted on the Hambletonian Society YouTube page on Monday (Aug. 2).
On their own show this week, Johansson and Svensen will delve deep into the upcoming Hambletonian Day events.
“On Monday (today) we’re going to have some of the trainers and drivers on the podcast and in the future are going to try to have some owners and other positions in the business,” Svensen said. “There’s so much focus on the drivers and the trainers. I think it would be cool to get some of the big owners.
“I have a plan to get Mark Weaver and Ron Burke to pick their brains a little. That would be cool because Mark Weaver is Burke’s guy to buy horses. It would be cool to pick Ronnie Burke’s head with how he runs such a big operation with so many horses and so many different tracks. That is something people can get a part of.”
Svensen has always followed harness racing intently and had a podcast in his homeland. He was an owner in Norway, and worked in broadcasting for both Standardbreds and soccer. He wrote about the sport and was a handicapper. Having lived in America the past six years, he has been an agent and a buyer. He currently works with Nancy Takter after being with Ake Svanstedt, Jimmy Taker, and Per Engblom.
Having seen the sport from many angles, he brainstormed with Johansson.
“You can’t say we’ve been super-close friends, but we were always chit chatting with each other,” Svensen said. “We got a little more connected when I was buying and selling horses. We started talking to each other and said we should have a podcast. Nobody is doing it over here.
“We maybe ate dinner one or two times and said ‘OK,’ and we bought the podcast equipment. We started with four or five tests and then we decided to go on Spotify. We didn’t expect that people would enjoy it so much. We have been very lucky that people are just enjoying it.”
There is no script, as the two just freewheel it and have a nice chemistry together. They try to provide as much information as possible to help gamblers.
“When I’m sitting home, I want information about betting,” he said. “I want to have as much information as we can get from the trainers and drivers to give to the people who are watching the races and betting the races. I think that just helps the wagering.”
Other than that, however, Svensen is happy with how things are going and enjoys the spontaneity of the show.
“We decide on Monday what to talk about with what happened during the weekend,” he said. “We try to have a guest and take it from there. We don’t have stuff down on paper, like a rulebook. The cool thing we like is me and Marcus have connections in the business. We don’t try to cross the line.”
Their first guest was Marcus Melander on July 26, which was followed by Sarah Svanstedt July 29. The shows have increased from 35 minutes to around 50 minutes with guests added. Most of the concentration is on New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
“Before COVID I watched races at Mohawk but the job I have now with Nancy, we’re going to focus on the East Coast, especially on the Grand Circuit,” Svensen said. “But we try to pay attention a little out in Ohio and Indiana for the sire stakes races because some of the horses out there are Grand Circuit horses.”
Could the coverage expand?
“We’ll see,” he said. “There are so many people who want to advertise, you never know in the future what’s going to happen. If that is something we can expand and do more with, we’ll discuss that. There are a couple important people in the business who have been in touch with us. The first month we’ve had over 1,200 downloads so it’s not too bad. Some of the owners don’t use Spotify so sometimes we need to send the link to them. Maybe it will be easier to use YouTube.”
Svensen encourages input from listeners about what subject matter they would like to hear. The duo can be followed on twitter @hrourview and reached through email at email@example.com.
Find “Harness Racing: Our View” on Spotify here.