Woodstock, VA — Even though the upcoming harness race meet at Shenandoah Downs will be run without spectators and wagering this year due to COVID-related precautions, track officials have come up with a unique way to create a “once in a lifetime” experience for 10 lucky fans.
Initially, plans were in place to hold the fall campaign — which runs from Sept. 18-Oct. 17 — without a track announcer. Since Shenandoah Downs does not simulcast their signal to other betting outlets and will race without fans in the stands, it seemed like a natural way to proceed.
At a recent staff planning meeting though, Tom Eshelman, General Manager of the Shenandoah County Fair, brought up an idea about giving aspiring race callers — that may not ever get the chance to call a race card in an actual setting — a chance to fulfill that ambition. The idea was met with unanimous approval.
That opportunity is available now for anyone that has previous announcing skills, has aspirations of becoming a race caller, is a horse racing fan — or none of the above. The lucky opportunists will get to announce a complete afternoon race program over the microphone and via Shenandoah’s live video streaming feed. They will be situated near two judges, a chart caller and a camera operator in the crow’s nest overlooking the start/finish line. They will be the “voice of harness racing in the Shenandoah Valley” for several hours.
Post time at the fifth annual meet is set for 2 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. Approximately $50,000 in purse money will be distributed daily on average. Up to eight horses compete in each race over Shenandoah’s half-mile oval. A 10-race program generally lasts several hours.
We’re not going to throw anybody to the wolves. We’ll give each race caller an introductory chalk talk, make sure they have a comfort level and check in periodically, but otherwise they will be on their own.
Over the past four years, Shenandoah has employed a rotating cast of announcers including Roger Huston, Mike Bozich, Pete Medhurst and Scott Warren, among others. Some use binoculars and some don’t.
Instead of having a single announcer for the meet, we like to give our fans a different flavor and style each week. That concept has been well received. And it will extend to a slate of amateur callers this fall. There is no compensation or perks, just a unique opportunity.
Callers chosen will have to follow the same COVID-related procedures that apply to horsemen and racing personnel.
Races take place at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock, Va. The track is located at Exit 283 off I-81, halfway between Winchester and Harrisonburg. Interested candidates can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or visit shenandoahdowns.com.