Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bugle Bob blows 'em away at Downs

His given name really is Bob, but his horn is really a trumpet

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Second only to horses and jockey silks, he's probably the most recognizable fixture of thoroughbred racing in the world.

Yet from the ground-level rail-birds who brave the baking sun to get as close to the action as possible, to the high-up fans watching from air-conditioned boxes behind the grandstand glass, he's known only as Bugle Bob.

"Actually, my name really is Bob," he said modestly after trumpeting the horses to the post for last Monday's Assiniboia Oaks Stakes one-mile race for three-year-old fillies. "My full name is Bob VandeBroek."

Claresmiezie, a bay filly ridden by Rico Walcott, must have liked VandeBroek's horn music, because she galloped to victory a few minutes later.

Even if you've never seen a horse race, it's even odds you'd recognize the nine familiar bars comprising the music that is a staple at every racetrack around the world.

It's known as the First Call, or the Call to the Post, and is played about 10 minutes before a race, alerting everyone within earshot that all horses should make their way to the starting gate.

Also running with VandeBroek's music last Monday was Jon Q, a bay gelding, who won the five-and-a-half-furlongs Graduation Stakes for two-year-olds, and ridden by Robert Reeves Jr.; Alisal, who won the mile-and-sixteenth R.J. Speers Stakes, with Rohan Singh up; and Balooga Bull, who had a 10-length victory in the 64th mile-and-an-eighth Manitoba Lotteries Derby, with Paul Nolan up.

Humming along were jockey Rohan Singh, with seven wins over the weekend, and trainers Chad Torevell and Shelley Brown, with three wins each. Singh leads the Downs jockey standings with 53 wins, followed by Nolan with 44 and Jennifer Reid with 43. Top trainer is Shelley Brown, with 27 wins. Chad Torevell and Blair Miller are tied for second with 25 each.

Bugle Bob admits he cheats a little playing the First Call.

"The way I play it, any trumpet player who may be here will know I use a double tongue (technique), and the real way is with a triple tongue.

"Most guys don't bother with that because the trip-up factor for the triple tongue is through the roof. I tried it once and I did it, and I thought I'm not going to try it again after that."

In his fifth year playing at the Downs, VandeBroek follows some impressive musical company, including his father Ido.

Then there was Lou Pollock, who was the Downs' first Bugle Bob. "He was in the union and he used a long fanfare trumpet. They paid him $35 every time, and he did it mounted on a horse."

A self-taught musician, VandeBroek is a sergeant with the Canadian Air Force.

"My main gig is with the Air Force Jet Stream Band at 17 Wing. I've been playing with them for about 33 years now. I also have a group called Conga Jim, and we play at the Current Lounge quite a bit. I also used to play with Ron Paley and guys like that as well."

His choice of trumpet is a Doc Severinsen Destino. "I would say this is the finest horn I've ever put my face on. It's made by Doc, and you can't buy them any more. It's hand-crafted, and Doc actually played this specific horn. It's his design and he's the quality control on all these instruments."

Popular with the fans, VandeBroek often does requests. "If you stick to Bird Dance and Tequila, the fans are happy. If there is a birthday, just come and tell me, and I'll play Happy Birthday for you."

Racing resumes tonight and Saturday, with a 7 p.m. post time both nights.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2012 C5

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