Nathan Bain is hooked on harness racing
story by Matt Dorsey
While a handful of people know at a young age what career they will pursue, few are able to start doing it at age 12. Nathan Bain is an exception.
Representing the third harness racing generation in his family, the 17-year-old Bain became in-terested in announcing horse races at age 11, made his first call at 12, and has now announced 21 times at six different tracks.
He has enjoyed every second of it.
“I love race calling,” said Bain. “It’s fun getting the excitement, getting the crowd on their tiptoes in the race, and keeping them informed of the story you’re telling, what’s happening on the track.”
Bain was raised and lives in South Woodslee, a small community in the southwestern Ontario town of Lakeshore, about 20 miles southeast of Windsor. His grandfather, Tom Bain, has owned, trained and driven Standardbreds for more than 50 years. Nathan’s father, Dave Bain, followed in his fa-ther’s footsteps and has spent his life in the business.
Nathan was different, though. With the family owning a stable, he’d been around horses his whole life, but it took the opening of nearby Leamington Raceway in 2013, when he was 11, to re-ally pique his interest.
“It was huge for the area for racing to return to Leamington after the  closure of Windsor Raceway, and I saw how amazing the industry was,” he said.
Bain’s family was involved in the push to open the half-mile track, and in the summer of 2014 he took a job opening and closing the gates on the backstretch.
Bain loved seeing the horses and watching the races. He also loved the excitement generated by the voice over the loudspeaker, so much so that he wanted to become that voice. So he began prac-ticing calling races during his downtime at the track.
“I’d put [races] on the computer, on the TV, and I’d announce them like if I were the announcer there,” he said. “Also, I would keep a program and pretend—a future race, I would pretend to an-nounce it. And I just kept practicing at it.”
With the encouragement of his parents, Bain was confident enough by the end of the summer to ask for a shot in the booth. He showed track announcer Marty Adler a video of himself doing one of his practice calls, and with the blessing of the track’s board of directors, was given the go-ahead.
At age 12, he became the youngest person to ever call a race in North America.
Bain’s call went over well enough that he did a few more at Leamington Raceway each of the next two years, building up enough notoriety to work at other tracks, including larger venues like Northfield Park and Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park.
He credits other announcers—especially Shannon “Sugar” Doyle from The Raceway at Western Fair District in London, Ontario, and Gabe Prewitt from Pompano Park—for mentoring him and helping to spread his name and give him opportunities.
Doyle met Bain at Leamington Raceway in 2014 and was immediately impressed by him. The two stayed in contact and Doyle gave Bain the chance to do post parade calls in London and ulti-mately let him announce a few races there.
“I could see the passion, the excitement when a horse race was starting up there in Leamington that day,” Doyle said of his first encounter with Bain. “You can see it in a person, the love they have for the sport. And any time he’s around London here, and whether it’s in the paddock or he’s up in the announcer booth with me, I can certainly just see it. I’ve got a pretty good read on people, and Nathan, he is hooked on harness.”
Doyle added that Bain’s ability to use social media to get in touch with people in the business all over the continent has helped him establish himself at a young age.
Still, it’s the combination of hard work and natural ability that has led to his early success.
“I went over the field the night before [my first call],” Bain said. “I kept practicing and practic-ing. I remember the night before, trying to get the names right of the horses.”
He added that his familiarity with Leamington Raceway made subsequent calls easier, but more preparation was needed to call at places like Pompano Park.
The ability to arrive at the track confident and prepared is what caught Prewitt’s eye when, after a period of talking on social media, Prewitt allowed Bain to call a post parade.
“It takes a lot of courage to step up and do that,” Prewitt said. “I’ve had many people before say they want to call a race or do something like that, that have stepped up and, you know, they kind of back out at the last minute. They decide they don’t really want to go forward with it and kind of get cold feet.”
Bain’s ability is particularly rare in a teenager, Prewitt said.
Part of that might be attributed to workload. An 11th grader at Belle River District High School, Bain has to meet the demands of any high school student, but said he is able to keep up by making full use of his time, even occasionally doing homework in the car en route to a racetrack.
When not in the booth, Bain is still working hard to promote the sport. He contributes to Leam-ington and Dresden Raceways’ social media accounts and does a pre-game show at Leamington. In 2018, he took a position as a handicapper and on-track host at Dresden. He is a youth delegate for the U. S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA) where he helped write bios for 2018 Dan Patch Award candidates. On his own time, he publishes articles about racing, along with some picks, to his personal blog.
Promoting the sport is important to him, not only because he loves it, but also because his dream of being a professional announcer makes him personally invested in its continued success.
Bain is especially involved in seeing the sport grow more prominent in his own area where, be-tween Leamington and Dresden, there are only 24 race days each year. An only child, Bain is close to his parents and grandfather, and, despite preferring front-side work, enjoys jogging horses and being involved with his family’s stable of five.
“I really see harness racing to be in my future,” he said. “The question mark is where. Most likely, if I want to stay an announcer, I’ll have to move from the area, but I don’t want to do that.”
Although he has plenty of time to develop his plans and see what the future holds for racing in southwestern Ontario, Bain said he hopes to attend St. Clair College in Windsor to study business, a field he believes will give him a leg up working at racetracks.
Full-time announcing jobs are, of course, at a premium. Bain’s mentors definitely believe he has the talent and the connections to procure one.
“He’s one of the youngest that I know of that’s getting these chances to call races at major har-ness racing tracks,” Doyle said. “He could be the next one, you know? The next Roger Huston or the next Frank Salive.” HB
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