12/11/2015 2:35PM

Battaglia preparing for life after announcer's booth

Barbara D. Livingston
Mike Battaglia, 66, has worked at Turfway Park since 1972.

Turfway Park fans who heard Jimmy McNerney call the races Friday night will be hearing more of him this winter as longtime announcer Mike Battaglia nears retiring from the booth. Battaglia, who will turn 66 in February, said this week he is “starting to ease out” of his race-calling duties at the northern Kentucky track, where he has been a fixture since 1972.

McNerney, a longtime jockey agent who became the caller at Ellis Park this past summer, will fill in for Battaglia by calling at least one program a week at Turfway, which runs through April 3.

McNerney, 39, also has called Quarter Horses in Louisiana and Standardbreds in Indiana.

Battaglia said he intends to continue working as the morning-line maker at Churchill Downs and Keeneland and in other capacities that do not involve calling races, including as an in-house television commentator at Keeneland. He said he is unsure of when he will be done calling races for good.

“It’s one of those things where I know I want to quit, but it’s hard to pull the trigger,” said Battaglia.
Battaglia replaced the legendary Chic Anderson at three Kentucky tracks: the old Miles Park, Turfway, and Churchill Downs. During his tenure at Churchill, he called 20 straight runnings of the Kentucky Derby (1977-96). Through his calls and his work for NBC-TV and other media outlets, his voice has become recognizable to an untold number of racing fans in North America and beyond.

A lifelong resident of the northern Kentucky area, where most of his large extended family still lives – including his 86-year-old mother – Battaglia said the grind of calling races has tested his skills as he has gotten older.

“You have to stay mentally sharp, with no hesitation,” he said. “We’ve been getting a lot of 12-horse fields here and they’re not easy, especially at night.”

When he does hang up his binoculars, Battaglia will join several fellow icons within his generation of announcers, most notably Tom Durkin, who retired from the New York Racing Association in 2014; Trevor Denman, who recently announced he has resigned his position at Santa Anita and will only call at Del Mar; and Dan Loiselle, who retired in May from Woodbine in suburban Toronto after nearly 30 years on the job.

“It’s been a great run, but at some point you have to say it’s time,” said Battaglia.

Bill Davis More than 1 year ago
He is very good at setting a morning line. Never liked his race calling. Too many times he would call a horse as "gaining ground" and the horse was not nearing the lead and likely didn't finish in the the trifecta. Broke my heart many times with the false hope of "gaining ground".
John McGourty More than 1 year ago
I've known Mike and his family for over 40 years and a finer gentleman you'll never meet. He's made thoroughbred racing much more enjoyable. Good luck, Mike.
Jeff Carmichael More than 1 year ago
Where is Bobby Neumann these days I like him at Calder. I also like Mark Johnson when he was at Churchill. Either on of these I hope are in the running at Santa Anita
Jeff Carmichael More than 1 year ago
Mike B is a pretty nice guy but those calls at Turfway are horrendous...FOR THE LEAD!!! awful
Joel Price More than 1 year ago
I wish the article had also mentioned the retirement of Terry Wallace form OP.
r More than 1 year ago
Seems like a good guy, but below average on race calling. Way too long dragged out behind the action style. I actually don't watch TP races on TVG due to the calls. Nothing against him, but his calls are poor.
Bob More than 1 year ago
I'm sure Mike B. is a nice enough guy but he is the absolute WORST race caller that has ever lived....class act or not! In fact he is so bad that he drives people away from the tracks where he calls races. At the race tracks and sports books that I have frequented over the years his race calling is the brunt of endless jokes and derisive comments and has been for as long as I can remember. The officialdom at Turdway Park would have done themselves a huge favor years ago by giving him a job in management that take place in a back office somewhere. Bad racing, al la Turdway Park, is bad enough. But bad racing combined with Mike Battaglia's race calling is simply more than a sane, rational person can bear...
Joe More than 1 year ago
Battaglia seems like a good guy. But does seem to be some 5 to 6 lengths behind the action. That being said he is still better than most of the younger guys in the business excluding Travis Stone.
happyhorseracin More than 1 year ago
Mike Battaglia is a class act and a terrific representative for the sport he loves.
Brian Rich More than 1 year ago
Absolutely the worst race announcer. I turn down the sound when I watch his races.
dave More than 1 year ago
the absolute worse is that harness race caller maniac "ROGER HOUSTON" from The Medows,he,s screams every race as if there noses apart to the wire,yet there 8 lengths between 1st and 2nd place,all time worse,,give my ash the chits
r More than 1 year ago
agreed. the guy at the Meadows absolutely SCREAMS. The races have $2400 purses and you would think he's calling BC races. AWFUL.