This past weekend there were two Kentucky Derby prep races. The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland race course and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Each of these races is the premier event for the respective tracks. As the Kentucky Derby is to Churchill Downs, as the Preakness is to Pimlico and the Belmont Stakes is to Belmont Park. To a race caller it is their Super Bowl.
Track race callers are a rare breed. It takes a unique individual having a unique mindset and word association skill to be able to recognize the jockey sliks and associate them with the horses name. They have roughly 15-20 minutes between races to study, take the test (i.e. call the race) which lasts between 54 seconds (4½ furlong race) to 2 minutes (1¼ mile race), and then repeat these steps 8-10 more times throughout the day.
Terry Wallace is the race caller at Oaklawn Park who has been working his craft for more than 37 years, all at Oaklawn Park. He recently ended his own consecutive races called streak (ala Cal Ripken) at 20,191 when on January 28th he turned the mic over to Frank Mirahmadi for just one race. He’s a legend in Arkansas thoroughbred horse racing. Much like the Dick Wooley was to Maryland horse racing. Unfortunately for Terry, his call of the 2011 Arkansas Derby is one he cannot be proud of.
I might be a bit too harsh on Terry, referring to his call as the “Worst Race Call Ever”, but I have seen and heard over 40 years worth of races, and this one definitely would make one of the greatest race callers of all time, Fred Capossela roll over in his grave. Check it out. You be the judge…
Now before you turn in your verdict, consider that the race had 13 horses it in. How many different horse names did you hear? The people who bet on Elite Alex, Caleb’s Posse and Alternation must have thought their horse was a late scratch or they were watching the wrong race? None of these 3 were mentioned. Nehro who ran second got mentioned just before the winner (Archarcharch) hit the wire, a mere neck in front of Nehro.
Go back and replay the race. Did I miss something or did Terry Wallace spend too much time playing Master of Ceremonies in his tuxedo on the infield while the horses were being saddled?
Here’s the 2005 Preakness Stakes as called by Maryland’s own race caller Dave Rodman.
Now that’s how a premier thoroughbred horse race should be called.
Probably one of the most entertaining race callers in the country is the aforementioned Frank Mirahmadi. He’s a man of a thousand, well maybe a couple dozen voices and added some spice to a 2+ mile turf race which took just over 3 minutes to run. WARNING: If you are not familiar with other race callers you may not get a total appreciation of Frank’s clever call. Enjoy…
If you can recall a good and/or bad race call that you feel should be in the Top (or Bottom) 10 of all time, please comment on this blog so I can share it with the readers.
Here’s one that was worth adding… Vic Stauffer’s “cardiac call” of Zenyatta’s 17th career race.