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February 22, 2019

Get Out of the Way

By: Jonathan Stettin


 

Race callers have always had their trademark calls. Some we like, some we don’t, and track announcers are a matter of personal choice. That said, the trademark calls become almost a part of the racetrack experience. We learn to accept the ones we don’t like as they are part of the venue’s branding.

One of the more famous calls was Dave Johnson’s “and down the stretch they come.” Just about every racing fan recognized those words and knew the horses were in the stretch. Trevor Denman’s “and they’d need to sprout wings” was a personal favorite of mine especially if I had the horse on the lead.

I grew up listening to Fred Caposella, one of the greatest race callers of all time. He called the races at the New York tracks for a long time. Like Harry Henson from the Southern California circuit, Fred had the right voice for a race caller. Some of his calls were, “and they race down the backstretch that way.” Of course, “It is now Post Time,” and “they’re off. “

Luke Kruytbosch also had a race callers voice. It is an art, and a difficult one at that. There have been many great track announcers, and some not so good ones as well. The best of the bunch either had great signature lines or the classic race-trackers voice. Some were fortunate enough to have both.

The current Gulfstream Park announcer recently introduced a signature line into his calls. "Easy money," he’d say when a horse appeared home, often at a short price. Trust me when I say like it or hate it, the call has no impact on the outcome. Yes, some found it annoying, especially I’d imagine if they went against the chalk as many of us so often do. However, to complain about it to the point good ole Pete had to scrap it, well that is just plain silly.

I am not sure whether the powers that be at Gulfstream ordered the scrap, or Pete caved to the social media pressure. Either way, he caved, and no lion concerns themselves with the opinion of sheep. If that was a signature call, he should have owned it in my opinion. Easy for me to say, sure, but I have walked that walk my entire life.

While the whole race call thing is not that important and really doesn’t warrant much discussion or attention, I bring it up for another reason. It shows the lack of a fan connection and the inability of tracks to focus on keeping their people coming to the races. Branding, and creating a unique experience is a part, albeit not the biggest part, in keeping people coming and identifying with the venue. Nobody is going to stop going to Gulfstream or listening to calls because Pete occasionally says, “easy money.” People will sour however when management shows a disconnect with bettors and fans alike. I mean Gulfstream recently promoted the Pegasus World Cup by highlighting Snoop Dog would perform. I am the only one I saw mention we had two same year Breeders’ Cup winners squaring off. That is a disconnect.

Apparently, the disconnect is not limited to the US. Edgar Prado recently returned from Saudi Arabia where he was denied a license because of his age. Nobody looked into this before he came? Edgar is still a capable rider and younger than a Kentucky Derby winner I believe. Seriously?

Hoping tracks work together to improve the game seems futile at this juncture. Maybe we can hope they somehow just stop getting in the way.