(WOODSTOCK, VA — 8/12/2020) —- 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 ten lucky fans.
Initially, plans were in place to hold the fall campaign — which runs from September 18 – October 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 2:00 PM 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 ten-race program generally lasts several hours.
“We’re not going to throw anybody to the wolves,” said Shenandoah’s Darrell Wood. “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. “I don’t know what to expect,” said Wood. “I’m not sure if we’ll have a single person that is interested or if we’ll have thirty responses. 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, Virginia. The track is located at Exit 283 off I-81, halfway between Winchester and Harrisonburg. Interested candidates can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or visit shenandoahdowns.com.