Career Spotlight: Announcer Ken Warkentin
If you’re thinking about a career in harness racing, announcing and publicity is one avenue to consider.
HHYF: How did you get started in the racing industry? Was it something you grew up in?
Ken: I started as a racing fan, grew up not far from Greenwood Raceway in Toronto (I’m Canadian), and attended harness races there with friends. They had a book shop; I read literature about the sport and became more interested. Eventually, I arranged to meet the announcer at Greenwood and that got me hooked. It wasn’t really something I grew up with. I played a lot of hockey (I still play and referee hockey) and dreamed of making the NHL or becoming a hockey play-by-play announcer. I also loved golf and still enjoy playing.
HHYF: What does a ‘day in the life of’ look like for you? Describe a day of work.
Ken: My preparation begins a few days before I actually travel to work, handicapping races and producing TV formats. On race day, I leave home at 10am to work at Freehold Raceway in the afternoon. Then, I drive to The Meadowlands for an evening program. So, most weekends I call about 50 races in 36 hours.
HHYF: What is one tip you would give to students considering a career in the racing industry?
Ken: I would recommend students try different jobs in racing and talk to people about their jobs because you never know what you might like best, plus you can diversify yourself, then find your passion.
HHYF: Tell us about one of the most memorable races you’ve called.
Ken: My most memorable races are any the Hambletonians I’ve called. I’ve had the privilege of calling 20 editions of this classic. After calling more than 200,000 races, my list of great ones is endless. I always say every race is a gift and the greatest gift of all is the next race. The best advice I received is just be yourself. Also, the stars are on track, and you’re there to draw attention to them.
HHYF: Tell us a little bit about your coaching work with up-and-coming announcers?
Ken: We annually conduct a Race Calling Class at The Meadowlands each summer. It’s a fun fantasy camp for aspiring announcers and their tuition helps the HHYF. I teach the basics, hand out information, and each student gets to call a qualifying race while I coach them.