When Churchill Downs Racetrack ("CDRT") unveils its 15,224 square foot
LED "Big Board" and an enhanced audio system on the "Opening Night" of
its April 26-June 30 Spring Meet, a new voice will be calling the
action, highlighted by an on-track call of the biggest race of them all:
the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I).
Larry Collmus, one of the premier race callers in North America and the
world of Thoroughbred racing, will be on the microphone as the seventh
announcer at the historic home of the Kentucky Derby starting with the
first race of the "Opening Night" program on Saturday, April 26 that
launches Kentucky Derby and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) Week.
The 47-year-old Collmus, a veteran of nearly three decades of
calling races in a career that started at the age of 18, will continue
his duties as the race caller for NBC Sports on its telecasts of the
Triple Crown - the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes - and
the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Mark Johnson, the first British announcer to provide the call of
America's greatest race and an acclaimed commentator and race caller in
his homeland. Johnson joined Churchill Downs as announcer in 2009 as the
successor to Luke Kruytbosch, who had called 10 renewals of the
Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks prior to his death at the age of 47
following the track's 2008 Spring Meet.
With his on-track
and on-air call of the 140th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 3, Collmus
will join a small and elite fraternity of track announcers for the
Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Churchill Downs racing that includes
Johnson (2009-2013), Kruytbosch (1999-2009), Kurt Becker (1997-1998),
Mike Battaglia (1978-1996), Chic Anderson (1961-1977) and Gene Schmidt,
the first Churchill Downs announcer who called the Derby for on-track
audiences from 1940-1960.
Collmus will join the legendary
Anderson and Kentucky-born Battaglia as the only announcers to provide
the Kentucky Derby call for both the on-track audience and the Derby's
network television partner.
Along with his television
duties as the NBC Sports voice of the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup,
Collmus currently serves as track announcer for the premier winter meet
at Gulfstream Park and will continue those duties at the Hallandale,
Fla. track after he takes on his new post at Churchill Downs for the
Louisville track's Spring, September and Fall Meets. Collmus has also
called races for the past 20 years at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.
The Maryland native started his career as an assistant caller at
Maryland tracks at the age of 18, with his first on-track call coming
in 1985 at Bowie Race Course. Two years later he was hired as the track
announcer at Alabama's Birmingham Turf Club, and at 20 was the youngest
announcer in the U.S. After a year at the Alabama track, Collmus moved
to Golden Gate Fields and spent four years on the Northern California
racing circuit before moving back to the East Coast in 1992 to take the
post of announcer at Massachusetts' Suffolk Downs. He joined Monmouth
Park in 1994 and worked a pair of winter seasons at New York's Aqueduct
in 2005 and '06 before he was hired to call the winter meet at
NBC Sports hired Collmus to be its voice
of the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown in 2011 following New York
Racing Association announcer Tom Durkin's decision to step down from
that role. He added the Breeders' Cup Championships to his television
duties for NBC the following year.
"I am both thrilled
and honored to become the voice of America's most famous race track,"
Collmus said. "Having called the Kentucky Derby three times for NBC
Sports, I have experienced the magical ambience of Derby Day, and can't
wait to be a part of that for Churchill Downs. I am looking forward also
to becoming a part of this terrific city, which has an incredible
passion for our sport.
"Although Churchill Downs is best
known for the greatest two minutes in sports, it's an amazing venue for
great racing in the spring, September and fall, and I'm excited about
calling those races as well. I am very happy to continue my roles as
voice of the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup for NBC Sports, as well as
calling the races during Gulfstream Park's winter championship meet."
"We are very pleased to welcome Larry Collmus to Churchill
Downs, where he will take his place on the brief, but very distinguished
and accomplished, roster of announcers that have served as the voice of
the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks and an ambassador for our historic
track in a community and region that loves racing like no other,"
Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. "Larry long ago
ascended to the highest ranks of his profession and has developed a
nationwide following through his work during the past three years as
part of the NBC Sports broadcast team for the Kentucky Derby and Triple
Crown. We are confident that racing fans in Louisville, the state of
Kentucky and throughout North America will embrace Larry in his new role
as the voice of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, and that he
will love living in a city and state that mean so much to our industry's
tradition and future.
"As Churchill Downs bids farewell
to Mark Johnson, we wish him the very best after five good years in the
announcer's booth. He has witnessed and described some fantastic moments
at our track, and we know that many thrills await him in future
endeavors at tracks in Britain, the United States and around the world.
His knowledge of racing and dedication to his craft have made Mark one
of our sport's premier commentators, and we will undoubtedly be hearing
his voice as an important part of great racing meets at venues
throughout the world for many years to come."
his national television work with NBC Sports, which included Kentucky
Derby victories by Animal Kingdom (2011), I'll Have Another (2012) and
Orb (2013) and last fall's riveting Breeders' Cup Classic (GI) finish
that saw Mucho Macho Man outlast the hard-charging Will Take Charge,
Collmus' career highlights include:
* The 1996
Massachusetts Handicap victory by the great Cigar, the 15th win in the
Bill Mott-trained star's record-equaling 16-race winning streak;
* An ESPN call of the 2010 victory by Horse of the Year Zenyatta in
the Lady's Secret (GI) at Oak Tree at Hollywood Park, the great mare's
penultimate race before her career finale in the Breeders' Cup Classic
at Churchill Downs;
* The six-length triumph by Kentucky Oaks
and Preakness winner and future Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra over
Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird and other males in the 2009 Haskell
Invitational (GI) at Monmouth Park;
* And a call of a 2010
race at Monmouth Park that became an internet sensation after Collmus
described an unlikely stretch duel between a pair of horses named
Mywifenoseverything and Thewifedoesntknow. Collmus' call of that 1-2
finish went viral and attracted more than one million views on Youtube.
He was a guest on several television shows, including the "CBS Early
Show" and "Inside Edition", to discuss the race and his distinctive and
entertaining stretch call.