Since I was a little guy trailing my dad to the races I always looked up high to the “perch” where the track announcer held court. To me this was the greatest job in the world, and it was hard to believe that they actually paid these folks. But after further review they all deserve a raise, and I sure hope it is a big one.
I can remember hearing many of the greats such as: Marshall Cassidy, Mike Battaglia, Cawood Ledford, Fred Capposella, Luke Kruytbosch, Larry Collmus, Terry Wallace, John G. Dooley, Phil Georgeff, Michael Wrona, Kevin Goemmer, Kurt Becker, and my two favorites – Tom Durkin and Trevor Denman. They all have a unique style and catch lines that could bring goose bumps. The race caller has the ability to bring the race alive and help you see it in a full-color view. For me they are the magic men in the sky. They are the voice of racing, and I am grateful to have heard them for these many years.
The torch has been passed so to speak to the “young guns” who will be the voices we will be listening to for years to come. They have big shoes to fill, but as the greats, they also bring a unique style and appreciation for the sport. You should turn up some of the following: Bill Downes, Travis Stone, John Lies, and my friend Pete Aiello. Mark my word, they will be some of the next callers who will bring racing into full view.
I have had the opportunity to call races on an interim basis. At River Downs, I was so scared, that I had to keep a fan blowing to keep the sweat out of my eyes. But I had the time of my life. When I was asked to fill-in for Mike Battaglia at Turfway Park you could say it was like following Babe Ruth in the batting order. You would have to agree that filling in for a star of the game takes some of the pressure off. How could you even begin to measure up? So I have learned to relax a bit more and enjoyed my opportunities. I get pretty excited, as I am just like you. I am an average fan who loves the sport, and I get to ascend the stairs where many fear to tred. Last night I called eleven races and time flew by like summer vacation as a kid. I guess I did O.K., and I had more fun than the law allows.
If you ever get the chance to watch a race caller ply his trade, I would advise you to run and not walk. You will be amazed, as they do it with the greatest of ease. The voice you hear on the ground will be happening in the moment for you. As I sat in his seat and looked over the next race I couldn’t help from looking down and seeing many youngsters walking with their fathers. It took me back to magical times where my dad was my hero, and going to the races was a pleasure.