The voice is unmistakable to anyone associated with horse racing in North America, one that can make a compelling finish that much more memorable.
It was 1986 when Loiselle, whose parents once worked at Woodbine, called his first thoroughbred race. “It wasn’t easy,” recalls Loiselle, who took over from Daryl Wells, the man who called races at the Rexdale, Ontario facility for 31 years. “I was given a shot to replace the man who is essentially the Wayne Gretzky of announcing and I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass.”
He’s certainly glad he didn’t. Others are thrilled he took the chance, too. “Every time I hear Danny call a race, I am reminded why he is considered among the very best in our business,” said Nick Eaves, President and CEO, Woodbine Entertainment Group. “Some would say the best. Not only is this my view but I regularly hear it from customers, horsepeople and many of our peers in both the thoroughbred and standardbred racing industry.”
Loiselle, whose wife, Wendy, is also a longtime Woodbine employee, has called some of the biggest races in Canada, including numerous Queen’s Plates, along with several prestigious turf events, including the Woodbine Mile and Canadian International, both Grade I races that consistently attract some of the world’s top turfers.
As for some of his favourite races of all-time, Loiselle points to the 1989 Breeders’ Stakes and the 2002 Queen’s Plate. “With Approval had won the Queen’s Plate by the width of a dime and then went down to Fort Erie and won the Prince of Wales in a close finish as well,” recalled Loiselle. “There hadn’t been a Triple Crown champion in 26 years and the place was electric. And (trainer) Roger Attfield said that his horse will be better on grass…I guarantee it. (Jockey) Don Seymour asked him to run at the head of the stretch and he opened up to win with ease. The crowd was so loud I couldn’t hear myself talking. I’m on the sixth floor and I just couldn’t hear myself talk. It was amazing.”
And while not every race has the grandeur of a Queen’s Plate, you’d never know it by Loiselle’s call. That professionalism isn’t lost on those who know him best. “One of the things I respect most about Dan is that he prepares for every card and calls every race with the same level of passion and professionalism, whether it is the Queen’s Plate or the last race on a Thursday afternoon card in late November,” said Eaves.
Indeed, a sneak into the announcer’s booth on any given racing day will see Loiselle fully equipped with coloured markers, to emphasize the silks of each runner, and a notepad with phrases or sayings to bring the horses to the finish. During each card, Loiselle also makes listeners aware if a trainer or jockey has won multiple races as the day progresses.
Jim McAleney, who has been riding in Ontario since 1987, wouldn’t want to hear anyone else calling his name coming down the stretch. “I think that Dan is the greatest track announcer in North America,” said McAleney, Canada’s champion apprentice rider in 1987 and 1988. “He’s just so entertaining. He always comes up with new, exciting expressions when the horses are coming down the lane. He’s about the only guy I know that can make every race come to life.”
Loiselle called his first race on July 23, 1986, the same day Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were married, something he will forever be associated with. “I can always say I lasted longer than they did,” says Loiselle, grinning.
Twenty-five years of bliss, to be exact. “To be able to work and get paid at something you love to do is fantastic. Every day is a different story. There’s no boredom at all. There are 10 different stories every day.”