While it certainly wasn’t a “sure thing” that he’d one day be working in the industry, it was a pretty safe bet that the ideal job for Jeff Bratt would be in the Thoroughbred world.
For the past 13 years, Bratt, who studied Broadcasting at Ryerson in Toronto, has been part of Woodbine Entertainment Group’s on air-team.
It is, in his estimation, a dream career. “When I was younger, my dad would always take me to the races on the weekends,” recalls Bratt, who started at Woodbine on March 22, 1999. “I was instantly hooked. On the big racing days, I used to love watching people from TSN or CBC get ready for their big shows. It’s what got me interested in television.”
The 35-year-old, who has covered some of Canada’s biggest races, currently covers simulcast on-air duties at Woodbine and offers racing insight on TVG, roles that include pre-race analysis and selections.
And, although, like any other handicapper, there are some days when his picks don’t pan out, Bratt, who lives a 45-minute car drive from the racetrack, is able to put a bad streak into perspective.
“Coming to work and being able to talk about a sport that you love with others who share the same passion is by far the best part of my job,” offers Bratt. “We all have bad days, where our selections run up the track, but the good news is there there is another day of races tomorrow. Being able to watch horse racing everyday and get paid for it is a dream come true.”
While he’s a seasoned professional with hundreds of interviews to his name, Bratt acknowledges there has been the odd occasion where he’s battled butterflies prior to asking his first question. There are two, however, that immediately come to mind.
“It’s a dead heat for that one,” says Bratt. “It would be Neil Drysdale and Jerry Bailey. Neil Drysdale, I was told, could sometimesbe a difficult interview and Jerry Bailey, because he was my favourite American rider growing up. [Champion] Cigar is an icon to me and Bailey rode him.”
As for his funniest or most embarrassing on-air moment, Bratt simply shakes his head. “How much time do you have to answer this one? Where do I begin? Probably the funniest was my most awkward as well. It was the first time I hosted a network show on Sportsnet. Understandably, I was very nervous prior to the start of the show and as soon as it started I forgot the name of the show, where I was, and even my name. All copies of that show should be destroyed.”
Fortunately, a self-deprecating sense of humour and passion for his work keeps Bratt, who lists the Woodbine Mile (this year on September 16) as his favourite race on the calendar, from putting too much pressure on himself when he’s on-air.
He also has the respect of his peers. “Jeff is a fine person,” said Jim Bannon, one of the sport’s foremost racing analysts. “He’s upbeat, cares about the quality of his work and always comes to the set prepared. It has been my good fortune to work as his partner.”
Bratt, who plays pickup hockey in a men’s league during his time on his days off, is equally appreciative of his colleagues.
“Our crew at Woodbine is amazing,” he said. “Jim has been terrific with me since day one sharing stories and teaching me on a daily basis. One thing I love about this job is you never stop learning. Everyone else is a pleasure to work with. We have one of the best on-air teams all of racing, and to be a part of that is an honour and a pleasure.”