The voice of live racing at Fort Erie Racing not only knows his way around a track, but also has first-hand knowledge of everything that goes on behind the scenes along the homestretch to prepare a complete for racing. .
Although he is only 26 years old, Doug McPherson has been working in the horse industry for half his life. He was 13 years old when he started working as a hot walker for his father, trainer Alexander (Sandy) McPherson.
It wasn’t the lure of working with horses that initially drew him to the family business.
“I wanted a job when I was a little kid, so I got a newspaper route, but I realized very quickly that I could make easier money working for my parents with the horses,” he recalled with a laugh. “I just fell in love with horses after that.”
McPherson, who lives in northwestern Tottenham, Ontario, continues to work for his father. He is now a stable boy in a four-horse stable that is expected to double in size by the end of the racing season.
But his experience in the industry is not limited to working in the family business. He has raced quarter horses at Ajax Downs and is the author of a tip sheet for the harness track at Kawartha Downs.
“I finally found my way back to the barn. I was a bit tired of the office stuff, I wanted to get back on the horses.”
McPherson isn’t worried about announcing that the Fort Erie duties will add too much to his job as a stable boy for his father and as a handicapper at Woodbine. For the last three years, he had written the Handicapper’s Journal at the Toronto thoroughbred track.
“I will do the time. One of the benefits of working for your dad is that you can say, ‘I need Tuesday off because I have to be in Fort Erie,’” he said. “He’s not going to argue too much.”
McPherson does not consider racing involving horses trained by his father to be a conflict of interest.
“It’s not really a conflict of interest because my race call doesn’t affect the outcome of the race,” he said. “I can’t cheer up my horse and make it run faster.”
In any case, it would hardly set a precedent. Ted Middleton, who advertises the races at Mohawk, owns horses and Daryl Ezra, who once called the races at Fort Erie, did so while working as a trainer.
McPherson succeeds Frank Salive, who retired after six years of calling races at the Fort Erie track. He admitted that he has big shoes to fill.
“Frank is obviously something of a legend in Ontario racing, especially on the standard breed side,” McPherson said. “I have a little experience.
“Nothing close to Frank Salive, but we’ll get there eventually.”
This won’t be the first time McPherson has replaced someone whose name became synonymous with a high-profile role in horse racing. There was also pressure when he started running handicaps at Woodbine.
“When I took on that job, I was replacing Jim Bannon, who is in the Hall of Fame for his contributions to the horse racing industry in Canada,” McPherson said. “I’ve been in this kind of situation before.”
His first day announcing the action in Fort Erie will be at the 125th season opener on Tuesday, May 31. McPherson suggested that his experience in the industry should enhance his ability to call a career.
“One thing, I know a lot of the horses that race,” he said. “I know a lot of the owners’ silks, so that sort of thing will come pretty easy for me.”
McPherson sees his role behind the microphone at Fort Erie as “broadcasting what’s going on as accurately as possible.”
“Your job is to just let the public know what’s going on in the race,” he said. “Express excitement when you’re there and make sure everyone knows what’s going on.”
He hopes eventually to get his trainer’s license and train one of his two horses “in addition to his other jobs.”
McPherson has been a guest announcer on a few different tracks, including Woodbine and Sunland Park in New Mexico.
“We are delighted to welcome Doug to Fort Erie. He is a passionate young rider with a wide range of industry knowledge and experience,” said Drew Cady, general manager of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium.
“We look forward to seeing him thrive in this new role.”
As far as McPherson is concerned, working with horses is a “very rewarding experience.”
“When you can take care of an animal, you can see it improve, develop day after day,” he said. “Eventually, you hope that all your hard work will pay off on race day.
“It can be frustrating when it doesn’t go well, but when it goes well, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had.”