Standardbred Canada is pleased to announce that Greg Blanchard and Jason Portuondo will co-host the 2021 Virtual O’Brien Awards Gala on Sunday, Feb. 6.
Greg Blanchard, Director of Sales and Retail Operations for Western Fair District, co- hosted the O’Brien Awards on two previous occasions, in 2010 and 2015. During his 30+ year career in the industry, Blanchard has served as the TV host and manager of media communications at Woodbine Entertainment, host of Bet Night Live, a weekly show broadcast nationally in Canada on The Score, a member of the racing broadcast team on Sportsnet and TSN, and last year was one of the hosts for the Hambletonian Broadcast on CBC, which marked his third consecutive appearance on the Hambo show. Blanchard also co-hosts COSA TV, a digital platform that produces content and live racing broadcasts from Ontario racetracks.
Jason Portuondo is back to co-host this event for the sixth consecutive year. A member of Woodbine’s broadcast team, he’s been very busy the past two years as the host of weekly editions of Racing Night Live, a two-hour broadcast featuring Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing, produced through a partnership between Woodbine Entertainment, TSN and Dome Productions.
SC checked in with Greg and Jason to talk about COVID, the Virtual Awards and more.
What is the best thing you have learned during COVID?
Greg – I think one of biggest things I’ve learned during the pandemic is to work more effectively from home or a remote setting.
Jason – There are many things in life I can do without.
What is your web platform of choice – FB Live, Zoom, other?
Greg – My preferred platform has been Microsoft Teams. It is what we use at work and is easy to use with a lot of great functionality.
Jason – Probably Zoom, but I’ve been going old school lately with Skype.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in the past year?
Greg – The biggest challenge has been the uncertainty and inability to confidently plan ahead in our different business units here at Western Fair. The Agriplex, which I oversee, has been set up as a mass vaccination clinic/temporary hospital the better part of two years now. It has been wonderful to be able to provide the facility to our local community but have had to cancel or postpone many annual events during that time.
Jason – Staying disciplined with my at-home workouts without being able to hit the gym.
What was the best item you purchased online during COVID?
Greg – A small steamer that replaces the traditional iron and ironing board. It is just as effective and much easier to use.
Jason – A Peloton bike.
The thing you will miss the most about the O’Brien Awards not being a live event?
Greg – What I was really looking forward to again this year was getting together and socializing with so many old friends and industry colleagues.
Jason – Seeing everyone dressed to the nines, nice to see them in non-work gear.
Did you ever take part in the O’Brien Awards post-event tobogganing party?
Greg – I have definitely taken part in the toboggan races a few times over the years. It is the hidden gem of O’Brien night festivities and definitely looking forward to when we can do this together again!
Jason – Had no idea this was an actual thing, let me know when we have a beach party, and I’ll be there.
What is your most frequently used emoji?
Greg – My most frequently used emoji is definitely one of the laughing faces. I am probably guilty of overusing it and would include it with this answer if I could!
Jason – A laughing face…
Your favourite Karaoke song to sing?
Greg – My ‘go to’ karaoke song is definitely “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling.” P.S. I loved how it was used in Top Gun!
Jason – If I’m speaking into a mic, I better be getting paid… Not really a karaoke fan, but gimme some Jason Derulo “Savage Love.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given during COVID and why?
Greg – Always try and find the humour in everything. It’s a personal philosophy of mine but it was good to be reminded of it.
Jason – Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.
Best Netflix, Apple or Prime movie or series you’ve watched during the past two years?
Greg – I definitely went down an American historical rabbit hole and two series that I would highly recommend are The Food That Built America and Vietnam In HD.
Jason – Mare of Easttown
Favourite Winter Olympics sport?
Greg – My favourite winter Olympic sport is predictable – hockey. But another that I really get into is the Bobsleigh; it’s usually always a razor thin margin of victory and lots of drama going into that final run.
Jason – Bobsleigh/Skeleton.
Your pick to win the Super Bowl?
Greg – Kansas City Chiefs.
Jason – San Francisco 49ers.
Favourite race call of this past year?
Greg – Without question, Bob Loblaw’s win in the OSS Super Final. I think many people got chills when they saw he was going to reach and Kenny belt out “It’s about time Bob!” – Great stuff.
Jason – Bob Loblaw winning the Super Final… easy one for me.
Show us the last photo you took on your smartphone at the time of this interview?
Greg – Sizzlen Hot Herbie at Dorchester Training Centre
Jason – Jason and Hez My Buddy
The 2021 Virtual O’Brien Awards Gala takes place on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022 and will be available for viewing on standardbredcanada.ca from 7 – 8:30 p.m. (EST). Keep up to date on the event details by following the O’Brien Facebook Event Page.