Bryse McElhinney finds his calling in harness racing

With his maiden race meeting behind the binoculars and microphone now under his belt, Bryse McElhinney is adamant where his future lies in the harness racing game.

The 24-year-old driver is also a budding race caller.

At Redcliffe’s non-TAB meeting on Melbourne Cup day, McElhinney took a day off from his driving duties and called the six-event program.

Over the 36 hours after Redcliffe’s Tuesday meeting, the junior driver would be in the sulky at two different race programs at ‘The Triangle’ track.

The NSW native is convinced which avenue he wants to pursue the most going forward.

“Into the future, I want to knuckle down with it,” McElhinney said about his calling ambitions.

“I am about to lose my claim with my driving soon, so the calling will be something I look at sooner rather than later really.

“I will keep driving and see how the race calling goes at that point in time.

“If I can do both then I will, but I will probably lean into the race calling more as that’s my best path to go down.”

What started as a joke when he was a young fella back home in NSW has turned into a promising career opportunity for McElhinney.

He came through the mini trotting ranks – as many of the top drivers do – and at his final race meeting in the ranks, he playfully suggested to the caller at the track that he wouldn’t mind having a crack behind the microphone.

“It just took off from there,” he said.

McElhinney has driven throughout NSW and the Sunshine State since the 2016-17 campaign when he had his maiden race assignment.

He is now working for the leading Queensland stable of Jack Butler as well as taking engagements from as many trainers as possible on race day.

McElhinney has 28 winners to his name, with his latest victory coming last month at Albion Park.

He cut his teeth calling the trials at Penrith and Menangle in Sydney in his younger years as well as broadcasting the mini trotters in the area.

Interestingly, the keen caller was somewhat out of practice before Tuesday’s non-TAB meeting.

He has not called any trials in the 15 months since he relocated to Queensland.

Bryse McElhinney after a recent winner in the sulky.

Despite that, he was smiling with how he performed on Monday being first-up from a spell and said he did not have any nerves.

“I just took it like it was trials, really,” he said.

“With it being a non-TAB meeting, I thought I would play it like it was just the trials, which I have called before.

“It was pretty easy. I really enjoyed it, it was good.

“I still have a little bit to work on but I was pretty happy with myself and how it all went.”

While he has not called trials since relocating north, McElhinney has been a regular behind the binoculars for the mini trotters at Albion Park on a Saturday evening or when they are run at Redcliffe.

Once the voice of harness racing in the Sunshine State Chris Barsby is finished calling the professional race, McElhinney slides in and calls the juniors.

Barsby will keep a watchful eye over the youngster in the caller’s box and McElhinney says the respected broadcaster has become a mentor.

Bryse McElhinney in the sulky.

As well as Barsby, McElhinney has also been guided by callers such as Anthony Collins and Mitch Manners in the young stages of his tenure as a broadcaster.

“When I first came up a couple of years ago, Chris told me to make sure I study my form and horses as much as I can,” he said.

“He suggested I stay relaxed and composed and not to go the early crow with excitement.

“He said I should build up as a caller as the race starts to build up. I have dealt with Chris closely and Anthony Collins since I have been up here.”

Like McElhinney, Collins also drove and trained standardbreds before stepping into the callers box.

This is McElhinney’s second stint in Queensland after previously completing a five month spell north of the border chasing more opportunities in the sulky on race day.

By Jordan Gerrans