Kentucky Derby

Track announcer Collmus to leave Churchill for NYRA

Collmus AP

Seven months after Larry Collmus became just the seventh announcer in Churchill Downs history, officials with the Louisville track are having to again search for a new voice.

The New York Racing Association said Wednesday that Collmus would become announcer for their tracks beginning in April 2015.

Collmus succeeds the legendary Tom Durkin as the voice of the NYRA. Durkin announced in May he would be calling his final race for the circuit at Saratoga on Aug. 31, bringing to a close his 43-year career — the last 24 of which have been spent with the NYRA.

Collmus will honor his one-year contract with Churchill Downs and continue to call the September and Fall meets this year.

Collmus was named the Churchill Downs track announcer last February, replacing British-based Mark Johnson who had served in that role from 2009-2013.

"We pretty much knew when we hired Larry that there was one job in the country that could lure him away from Churchill Downs and that was the NYRA job," said Darren Rogers, senior director of communications for Churchill Downs. "We didn't expect it to happen so quickly but you know when the announcement of Tom Durkin's retirement was revealed in the spring, that obviously changed the landscape and moved up that timetable.

"The opportunity for him to take the post at NYRA I know for him is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Rogers continued. "He can call a lot of great races over there and the number of racing days are well beyond the 70 or so that we typically offer during the calendar year at Churchill Downs. We wish Larry the very best and we understand."

Since Collmus also serves as the voice of the Breeders' Cup and Triple Crown races for NBC Sports, he will still get to call the Kentucky Derby for the national television audience.

Collmus, 47, also calls races during the winter at Gulfstream Park and will continue in that role in addition to his duties with NBC. John Imbriale, director of TV production for the NYRA, will call the 2014 Belmont Fall Meet and will continue to serve as the main race caller at Aqueduct Racetrack, with the exception of the month of April.

"I'd like to thank everyone at Churchill Downs who treated me very well during my brief time there," Collmus said. "I am trading one dream job for another."

Rogers said Churchill Downs has already started the process of finding a new race caller but that "we really don't have any timetable." He downplayed the notion that the track would hold an audition-type process similar to the one used when Johnson got the job.

Several names have been tossed about on social media sites as potential candidates, including Bobby Neuman, the announcer at Calder Race Course and one of the five finalists for the Churchill Downs job in 2008 when the search was on to replace the late Luke Kruytbosch.

"We have plenty of talented race callers that have a wide range of talent and individual style," Rogers said. "We'll be looking for the candidate who is the best fit for racing at Churchill Downs and the honorable duty of being the on-track voice of the Kentucky Derby. But we're not at a point to talk about any names at this stage."

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