07/13/2016 9:56AM

Back at the mic, Denman content with decision to cut back

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Benoit & Associates
Trevor Denman will call races on Friday for the first time since November.

Last winter, Trevor Denman traded Los Angeles-area traffic for a more tranquil pace on his Minnesota farm. Denman stunned Southern California racing when he announced his immediate retirement from calling the races at Santa Anita prior to the start of the track’s winter-spring meeting in December.

He did not call time on his career at Del Mar.

On Friday’s opening day of Del Mar’s summer meeting, Denman, 63, will be back in an announcer’s booth for the first time since last November. He said he will be ready to resume work and is a bit anxious following the lengthy break.

“The first race is going to be weird, but after the third, it will probably feel like old hat again,” Denman wrote in an e-mail last weekend. “Luckily, opening day at Del Mar is the most exciting day of the year, so that will get the endorphins rushing!”

Denman’s descriptive style and familiar phrases have endeared him to racing fans. He emigrated from South Africa in 1983 and became Santa Anita’s full-time announcer in the winter of 1984-85. This summer will be Denman’s 33rd at Del Mar.

With Denman at the microphone, races frequently begin with the call, “And away they go.” A horse pulling away in the stretch is often said to be “moving like a winner.”

At one point in the 1990s, Denman called the races on a year-round basis throughout Southern California – at Del Mar, Fairplex Park, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita. He dropped Hollywood Park from the rotation in the mid-1990s.

For nearly 20 years, Denman called the action at Del Mar, Fairplex Park, and Santa Anita and would retreat to his farm in Minnesota at other times of the year. Even that schedule caught up with him. In recent years, he took breaks at the end of the marathon Santa Anita meeting.

Too many long drives on the 210 freeway near Santa Anita provided time for him to reconsider the workload. Still, Denman said the decision to leave Santa Anita last fall was “fairly spontaneous.”

“It almost came down to a moment when I was sitting in the booth and the thought hit me, ‘Why am I doing this when I could be enjoying the tranquility of my remote farm?’ ” he said.

“Then, on the drive home, I was sitting in horrendous traffic, and again I thought, ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’ It sounds like a simple decision that could have been made earlier, but we all have that ‘light-bulb moment’ when everything falls into place.”

Denman said he has spent the last six months working on his farm and the last six weeks glued to television watching two major soccer tournaments – Copa America and Euro 2016.

“I managed to fit in some reading along the way, too,” he said. “In the beginning, it took some getting used to that I didn’t have to get dressed and fight the traffic again. I kept thinking, ‘What’s post time today?’ ”

The Del Mar summer meeting ends Sept. 5. After that, Denman and his wife, Robin, will retreat to Minnesota through early fall before returning to Del Mar for the autumn meeting, which runs Nov. 11 to Dec. 4.

They are in the process of selling their Los Angeles-area home, Denman said.

Denman said the new schedule has immediate appeal. He will call races for 12 weeks this year, leaving him 40 to do whatever he wants.

“The short meet helps, and this is as close to retirement as one can get without actually retiring,” he said. “I certainly can’t complain about burnout. It’s going to be very interesting for me.”