First year Churchill Downs track announcer Larry Collmus will step down at the end of the fall meet at the Kentucky race track to accept the job as lead announcer for the New York Racing Association (NYRA). The NYRA job is considered to be the best in the sport and Collmus will succeed the legendary Tom Durkin beginning next year.
This is all good news for Collmus and the NYRA but another blow for racing in Kentucky. There is no shortage of opinion that the quality of racing at Bluegrass State tracks has suffered in recent years and that has now extended to the track announcer. At one point, the Churchill Downs job was among the pinnacles for track announcers and the track has had only 7 in it’s history. Unfortunately, they’ll have to employ their third in three years once Collmus’ successor is hired. Collmus replaced Mark Johnson, who worked at the track from 2009 to 2013 and was 86′d when the new announcer was hired.
Before Johnson the track announcing duties belonged to the capable Idaho native Larry Kruytbosch from 1999 to 2008. Kruytbosch had the skills to be the long term announcer at Churchill Downs but he unfortunately died at the very young age of 47. Kurt Becker was track announcer for two years and is still the PA announcer at Keeneland. Prior to Becker a familiar name in racing held the job–oddsmaker and NBC broadcaster Mike Battaglia was the track announcer from 1978 to 1996.
The two previous track announcers were Chic Anderson who also worked tracks in California and New York. Anderson served as track announcer from 1961 to 1977 and had the honor of calling Secretariat’s successful Triple Crown bid in 1973. He replaced the first full time track announcer at Churchill Downs, Gene Schmidt who called the action from 1940 to 1960 including four Triple Crown winners (Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault and Citation).
Collmus will begin his new job when he takes over at Aqueduct on April 1 in the week long run up to the Wood Memorial. He’ll also serve as the track announcer at Belmont Park and Saratoga with longtime NYRA employee John Imbriale taking over at Aqueduct at the end of April.