07/19/2011 1:21PM

Woodbine: Loiselle to celebrate 25 years as track's announcer

Michael Burns
Track announcer Dan Loiselle (left) and Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf conduct the post positon draw for the 2010 Woodbine Mile.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Although he may argue otherwise, Saturday will not be just another day at the office for Woodbine announcer Danny Loiselle.

The 59-year-old Loiselle took over as the Thoroughbred racecaller here at Woodbine on July 23, 1986, and will be marking his silver anniversary.

Loiselle’s career in the booth was just the latest phase in a career that began with the Ontario Jockey Club on Aug. 1, 1967. That brings his sum total of years with the company, which now is known as the Woodbine Entertainment Group, to 44.

“For the first 19 years, I worked in the Standardbred division, mostly as the assistant racing secretary, and I was the back-up announcer,” Loiselle said. “I announced my first Standardbred race at Garden City Raceway, when I was 17 years old.”

Loiselle called the Thoroughbred races at Greenwood when that former racetrack was owned by the Ontario Jockey Club. He also has announced Standardbred races at Greenwood, Mohawk, and at Woodbine, where he pinch-hits for a couple of weeks every winter.

And Loiselle has kept things interesting through the years, using his announcer’s bag of tricks.

There are the phrases, for which Loiselle has come to be known, such as “picture time” for a photo finish or “throw a blanket over them” for a bunched-up field. There are the straight plays on words centered on the names of horses, such as “Doctorintheouse is operating on a one-length advantage” or “Namath could . . . go . . . all . . . the . . . way” (adopted from sportscaster Chris Berman, who in turn had adapted it from Howard Cosell).

And then there are the original and colorful phrasings such as “he’s closing on the leaders like a hungry dog on a pork chop” or the recent “he’s running through the stretch like a broken shopping cart,” in reference to a horse racing erratically.

Loiselle’s announcing role has been expanded to make him a key part of racing television productions on CBC and The Score, where his insights have contributed to the broadcasts.

And his importance at Woodbine extends beyond the booth as he has been called upon to act as master of ceremonies for ceremonial draws and horsemen’s functions at Woodbine and at industry functions such as the Sovereign Awards, Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society awards, and LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Fund gala.

His role at the ceremonial draws has provided a particular source of enjoyment.

“It’s been really interesting,” Loiselle said. “I’ve had a chance to interview some very high-profile people.”

Some of Loiselle’s most memorable subjects among a list far to long to cite have been actors Mickey Rooney and Tim Conway, hockey superstar Gordie Howe and commentator Don Cherry, and sprinter Donovan Bailey.

Loiselle also is experienced enough to know that behind every good man is a better woman and his wife of 23 years, Wendy, has filled that role.

Wendy Loiselle, a highly regarded member of WEG’s senior management team, has been with the company for 33 years dating back through the OJC days. Her current title is senior manager of corporate and social responsibility and she is heavily involved in Woodbine’s green initiatives and various fundraising efforts.

And Wendy Loiselle’s commitment extends beyond the track as she helps local charities and helps set up various workshops throughout the area. She also is a director of the Recycling Council of Ontario.

“I’m thinking that by the time we retire, combined, we’ll have worked over 80 years with the company,” Loiselle said.

Loiselle currently has no idea when his actual retirement day may come, but has one strong opinion on how long he will remain in his current role.

“I guarantee I won’t be announcing races until I’m 65,” Loiselle said.

But, as is the case in some of his unique race calls, sometimes you wind up going with the flow.

Racing commentator Magee dies

A private family funeral service will be held this week for Michael Magee, a longtime racing commentator and author who died in Grand River Hospital last Saturday at age 81. Magee had been suffering from colitis, which led to internal bleeding and heart stoppage.

Born in Toronto, Magee was a nephew of E.P. Taylor, founder of the Ontario Jockey Club and of the famed Windfields Farm. Magee’s parents were members of the OJC, and his first job was working as a money runner for the mutuels department in 1948, a position that he also held for a time at Exhibition Park (now Hastings) in Vancouver.

He went on to work as a writer, producer, and commentator for the CBC racing telecasts from 1964 to 1986. The network won the Sovereign Award for outstanding film/video/broadcast in 1985.

An avid racing historian, Magee authored the book, “Champions,” in collaboration with Pat Bayes, which was published in 1980. He also was a renowned handicapper and one of his last official connections with racing was as the host of “Racing With Magee,” a daily radio show that aired in the mid-1990s.

Magee also was well known outside the racing world as an actor and satirist, with numerous television and radio credits. One of his most celebrated roles was as the voice of the villainous Cyril S. Sneer and his dog, Snag, on the popular animated series “The Raccoons.”

In the late 1970s, Magee created a famous alter ego, the crusty and outspoken Fred C. Dobbs. Magee played Dobbs, along with a number of other characters, on the one-man show “Magee and Company,” which aired in the mid-to-late 1970s.

Fred C. Dobbs, whose name came from a character in the American novel and film “The Treasure of the Sierra Madres,” inspired several equine namesakes. The best was the Ontario-bred Fred C. Dobbs, who was a stakes winner here during his 2-year-old campaign and placed in other added-money events at Woodbine and Stampede Park in 1985.

Magee had a tale to cover almost any occasion, including one in which he complained of another prominent Canadian comedian stealing one of his jokes.

‘The worst thing,” said Magee, “was that I’d gone to a lot of trouble to steal it myself.”

Magee had been living in nearby Caledon for many years with his partner, Sally Hamilton.