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WEG Broadcast Trio On COSA TV

Published: April 17, 2020 4:48 pm ET

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A different trio of faces was featured on the Sunday evening (April 19) episode of COSA TV. Rather than a trio of horsemen, the familiar faces of WEG’s broadcast team -- Mark McKelvie, Jason Portuondo and Chad Rozema -- joined host Greg Blanchard to entertain the harness racing community while live racing across North America remains dark due to COVID-19.

The seasoned group of broadcasters discussed their introductions to the sport of harness racing, played some trivia and enjoyed some of their favorite races throughout history.

Mark McKelvie, youngest of the foursome, started the conversation with his introduction to the harness racing industry.

“I grew up around the racetrack, I took a liking to it right away and it just stuck with me. My dad [Scott McKelvie] is the race secretary at Mohawk and has been for many years, my mom works for Standardbred Canada so I come by being involved in the industry honestly. I started to do some broadcast work when I was almost finished college and moved full-time to the media department in 2014. A lot of my first jobs were around the track, timing races, charting races, working with the maintenance crew cutting grass, cleaning stalls...a big portion of my life has been spent working at the track.”

Chad Rozema, another lifelong harness racing fanatic, is another who was fortunate enough to be introduced to the game at an early age.

“I think I was around 10 years old when I started working at Elmira Raceway, I would just pick up garbage and do little things around the grounds and to this day I still live in Elmira. My first boss was Ken Middleton’s father and that’s how I got to know Kenny and he was a really big part in getting me my first interview with WEG in February of 2007. We loved to bet the races, even when we weren’t legal we still found a way,” laughs Rozema.

Contrary to belief, Jason Portuondo -- most known for his Thoroughbred expertise -- got his start into the racing world with Standardbreds.

“A lot of people think of me as a Thoroughbred guy but my introduction to racing really was through Standardbreds, working for Harold Stead. When I started in this business, guys like Mike Saftic were grooming for Garth Gordon. I went way back with Ken Hornick, when I first got started into broadcasting at CKWS, a news station in Kingston, Ken called me and told me to give the TV department a call and see if I could get in. Thanks to my uncle and my father who owned horses, I got to grow up around the backstretch at Greenwood. To this day, people will ask me which I prefer and I have to say neither because I just love horses and I’m lucky I get to experience the best of both worlds working with WEG.”

The trio of on-air sensations revisited some of their favourite races throughout time in between answering questions from fans and trivia.

Portuondo truly admires the great trotting mare Peaceful Way.

“In both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds it rarely happens when a female takes on all the males, but when it does she always has a huge following. Peaceful Way was a horse that when you’re a good horse, you’re a really great one. In the 2006 Maple Leaf Trot everyone had their eyes on Sand Vic at 1-5 and I think one of the best things about Peaceful Way is that she was a $30,000 purchase at the Forest City Sale in London, Ont. which just goes to show you that you don't have to go outside your own backyard to get a good one. When they turned for home I remember watching this race and saying to myself it’s over now for the rest of them. Anytime you can see a local horse get it done in the big show it's a beauty of a thing. Peaceful Way was a small horse too and that just goes to show you that it’s not always about the size of the cat in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the cat.”

McKelvie also revisited a fond memory in harness racing from the year 2008 -- a year that is most commonly remembered for Somebeachsomewhere. However, McKelvie stayed on the trotting gait with a trotter that remained undefeated for the majority of his career similarly to the great ‘Beach’ - Deweycheatumnhowe.

“A couple things really captivated me about this horse. I think it really fascinated me that we had horses on both gaits that were just totally cleaning house. 2008 was the first time I got to go to the Hambletonian and that was the year Deweycheatumnhowe was victorious, so I think because of that I’ll always feel a special connection to the horse. Anyone that knows me knows I love The Red Mile and knows I go to Lexington every fall, and when Dewey was going for the Futurity against Celebrity Secret it was one of the greatest race-offs I’ve ever witnessed. I remember hopping up and down cheering as they were coming down the lane. It was a fantastic finish.”

Rozema switched gaits to a memorable moment in harness racing, the 2018 North America Cup where Lather Up was victorious.

“I think Lather Up is such a standout to me because of everything that surrounded him in his career, he was just a sire stakes type of horse as a rookie and then all of a sudden the legend of Lather Up started growing as he became a three-year-old. Lather Up’s dam was accidentally bred to Im Gorgeous and he suffered foaling issues as well and I think that makes his story even more fascinating. The Teague family and Clyde Francis are just amazing people to deal with in every way also. His owners are two of the nicest people you will ever meet and it was just amazing to see all the joy that this horse brought to everyone around him. When this horse was sound and was on his game, he was just unbelievable...he was such a powerhouse.”

The wildly entertaining segment was produced by Curtis MacDonald’s CUJO Entertainment and is available for viewing below.

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