A talented field of three United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) youth members entered the first USHWA Canada chapter-sponsored Youth Race-Calling Contest.
Celebrity judges Ken Warkentin (U.S. Hall of Fame announcer, The Meadowlands) and Ghislain Paquet (veteran Québec announcer, most recently for Circuit Régional des Courses de Chevaux du Québec) brought decades of experience into the decision process. The contest was conducted by USHWA Canada chapter volunteers and voters: score-keeper Nick Barnsdale, organizer Melissa Keith, Garnet Barnsdale, Trey Colbeck and Conley Ecclestone.
"Three excellent young contestants. Like a close photo, it’s tough to separate them!" said Warkentin.
All three contest entrants received first-place votes from the panel; the final decision came down to points and was not unanimous.
Grady Hachey of Fredericton, N.B. was the winning race-caller, with his description of race four at Truro Raceway on Oct. 29. Scored for accuracy and flair, Hachey's call drew the top score of 115.4 points. The Truro Raceway commentator called his first race at 11 years old. He currently works part-time for trainer Charlie Miles and covers New Brunswick harness racing for Atlantic Post Calls. Hachey's winning race call is available below.
Mercer, Pennsylvania native Dylan Daugherty's call of the Oct. 9 Pennsylvania Fair Stakes final for two-year-old male trotters at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono earned him the place finish, with 112.2 points.
Cape Breton, N.S. race-caller Justin Turnbull was the show finisher, picking up 107.7 points for his call of race two on Oct. 9 at Northside Downs.
Judge Ghislain Paquet said all three entrants have a bright future ahead.
"I was really impressed by the talent and ease of our three young announcers," he said. "No doubt in my mind that if they ever want to be a [professional] horse racing announcer, they will be one."
Canadian chapter director Melissa Keith confirmed that there will be a 2024 renewal of the contest and invites aspiring harness race-callers to reach out to their local USHWA chapter if they are looking to learn or improve their skills.
(With files from USHWA)