The end of Churchill Downs' Fall Meet on Saturday also marks the conclusion of the track's five-week tryout process in a quest to find a replacement for its late announcer Luke Kruytbosch.
There has been a different track announcer each week during the meet: Calder's Bobby Neuman, Louisiana Downs' Travis Stone, Golden Gate's Michael Wrona, Gulfstream and Monmouth Park's Larry Collmus and England's Mark Johnson.
Before the meet's final day, John Asher, vice president of communications for Churchill Downs, discussed what exactly the track was seeking as the next "Voice of the Kentucky Derby."
Question: What are the main attributes Churchill is looking for with regard to its next track announcer?
Answer: "On the most basic level, we are looking for a great race caller. There have only been five announcers in the history of the track and — along with the high quality races offered on a daily basis here — that announcer will have the honor and responsibility of announcing the Kentucky Derby, America's greatest race and one of the world's great races. We're looking for a special talent whose style, delivery, accuracy and enthusiasm will offer a Kentucky Derby call that befits the enormous stature of the Derby and deliver that same kind of excitement on a daily basis."
Q: What gives a track announcer a "signature style"?
A: "The 'signature style' is tough to define — but you know it when you hear it. With Luke you had an announcer with a wonderful voice and a timeless delivery. I've always said that I believed that Luke's voice and style would have sounded pretty close to perfect whether he was calling home War Admiral in 1937, Iron Liege in 1957 or Big Brown in 2008. He had a great economy of language, yet his descriptions were very vivid and accurate. The great Chic Anderson had a style that was similar to Luke's, although he is best remembered for his Belmont call in which he described Secretariat to be moving 'like a tremendous machine.' Dave Johnson's calls are vivid and exciting and would resonate with fans even without his signature phrase, the instantly recognizable 'and down the stretch they come.'"
Q: How did Churchill come to select the five that tried out? What made them stand out from other applicants?
A: "The five announcers that were invited to fill in as 'guests' during our Fall Meet were chosen by a vote among the members of our committee after we had scrutinized race calls submitted by an international field of well over 20 applicants. ... Is it guaranteed that Luke's successor at the microphone will come from this group of five? That's the most likely scenario. We're accepting fan input via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Q: How soon can fans expect a decision?
A: "I think we'd like to have a decision by the end of the year, as our choice could have a ripple impact on some other announcing jobs. But we'll continue the process as long as it takes for us to be comfortable that a great announcer will be calling the Kentucky Derby and Oaks and other wonderful races at Churchill Downs."