With decades of experience, in harness racing, to her credit - award-winning writer Melissa Keith, of Lower Onslow, Nova Scotia, is on the move to Western Canada and is set to make her professional race calling debut this coming Sunday at The Track On 2.
"The support for harness racing, in Alberta, is really impressive to see..." says Keith. "Watching the developments by Century and at The Track On 2 - and seeing the many fans along the fence when I watch online - I'm looking forward to getting out there and to the races!"
Keith brings with her a long list of accomplishments, through her written works in harness racing,including the Media Excellence Award for Outstanding Written Work, in 2015 - Been There, Bought the T-Shirt: The Relevance of Trademark Race Calls - read it here http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/files/Been-There-Bought-The-Tshirt-(0215).pdf - it was published in Trot Magazine’s February 2015 issue. The story is about race announcers, their trademark race calls and memorable race calls.
Melissa's favourite horse race callers currently include Ken Middleton (Mohawk), John Hernan (Yonkers), Sugar Doyle (Western Fair) and Vance Cameron (Red Shores). Her all-time favourite callers have been Scotty Kane (Sackville Downs), Danny Emond (Hippodrome de Montreal), Sam McKee (Meadowlands/Red Mile), Frank Salive (many places) and Larry Lederman (mostly retired, but called at Freehold this past summer).
Keith's current status in the business of harness racing... She's a much-sought-after freelance writer and an Atlantic Post Calls columnist; is President of the Canadian Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association and a member of the fractional Won't Back Down Stable, at Truro Raceway.
When asked about her previous experience in race calling... "Professionally - there's very little," admits Keith. "I've practiced, but not formally called the races, at Maritime tracks (primarily Truro Raceway), after being encouraged (by another fan) to call a few races trackside at a New Brunswick matinee card a few years ago," she explains. "My first professional race call was Race 2, May 1, 2018, at The Raceway at Western Fair District. I had been practicing more seriously in the months leading up to that date, hoping to assist at a Nova Scotia matinee card that never materialized this year. I was actually preparing to travel to Leamington Raceway in Ontario, where they had welcomed me to guest-call a few races, when I got the call to announce at The Track on 2!"
Has Keith ever called races on a one mile race track? "In practice yes, but for real - the answer is no... Although I look forward to giving it my best shot!" she says. "I was raised on half-mile racetracks and still bet them most, but the big tracks give closers and horses with exterior post positions a better chance, so I enjoy them too - especially the stretch drives."
How did this opportunity come to be? "(Owners/Operators) Kurt and Kyla Belich, and (Business Development Advisor) Jim Reed, were open-minded and even enthusiastic about welcoming a still-evolving, female announcer to The Track On 2, which blew me away," answers Keith. "Sugar Doyle, who called the first cards on the season at The Track On 2, is an in-demand announcer and had previous commitments at other tracks, so he asked me if I would be willing to give it a go. Sugar has been my race calling 'coach', ever since I mentioned wanting to try it a couple of years ago, with no plans to do anything but learn a fun new skill. He knew about my radio background, so the pieces just fell into place."
Do you see this venture as a stepping stone to becoming an announcer or will you continue your main focus on writing? "That's an excellent question," mentions Keith. "Time will tell... I'm mostly happy to have been able to tell my Dad the news about The Track on 2 literally days before he passed away last month. He cried when he heard my race call at Western Fair, back in May, and said it made him so proud that his daughter would do that, stereotypes be damned..."
Keith will make her professional 'full-card' race calling debut this coming Sunday, September 16th, at The Track on 2 in Lacombe, Alberta. First race post time, for the eight-dash program will be 1:10 MT - a FREE Program and Live Video Stream will be available at www.thetrackon2.com.
Best of luck Melissa and welcome to Alberta!
*The Track On 2 is a horse racing and event centre located just outside of Lacombe, Alberta on the QEII Highway. The racetrack is the only one mile dirt track and 7/8 mile turf track in Western Canada. The facility also includes a large grandstand, a riding arena and a number of stables. The Track is locally owned and operated by Kurt & Kyla Belich and their business partner Ross Morrison.