03/30/2015 2:15PM

Collmus begins dream job as voice of NYRA

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Jerry Dzierwinski/Maryland Jockey Club
Larry Collmus will take over as the racetrack announcer for the New York Racing Association on Wednesday at Aqueduct.

Though the realization of a lifelong dream for Larry Collmus begins on April Fool’s Day, it’s no joke. He is the new voice of the New York Racing Association.

“It’s actually real,” Collmus said. “It’s April Fool’s Day, but this is me, and I’m here.”

On Wednesday, Collmus walks into the announcer’s booth at Aqueduct as the new racetrack announcer for NYRA, replacing the legendary Tom Durkin, who retired last August following 24 years in New York and 43 years in the business.

Collmus, 48, was announced as Durkin’s successor last August. He will be the NYRA announcer from April through October, allowing him to continue his job as Gulfstream Park’s announcer from December through March. Since Sept. 1, NYRA’s fall and winter races were called by John Imbriale, backed up by Travis Stone.

For the last four months at Gulfstream, Collmus said New York was never far from his thoughts.

“I think I thought about it probably every day,” Collmus said in a recent interview at Gulfstream Park. “Not in a negative way; it’s been more of a looking-forward-to-it since [August], and I still feel that way.”

Collmus began his announcing career in 1985 at Bowie Race Track in Maryland. Coincidentally, King Leatherbury won the first race he called, and Leatherbury has a horse – Ginny’s Grey – in Wednesday’s first race at Aqueduct.

Collmus’s career took him to Golden Gate Fields, Suffolk Downs, Monmouth Park, and Gulfstream. He spent one year at Churchill Downs but left to chase his dream of coming to New York.

“To me, since I got into this game, which was in the mid ’80s, I’ve always considered New York the best racing circuit in the country,” Collmus said. “I always hoped that one day the time would come that I would get the opportunity to call there.

“Honestly, the main lure to New York is Saratoga,” he added. “There’s no place like it. Ever since I started going there as a fan, you fall in the love with the place. I used to remember on a quiet Tuesday morning getting a cup of coffee on Broadway and thinking, ‘Maybe one day.’ And it’s about to happen.”

Collmus has called at NYRA tracks before. In 2005-06, he called the inner-track meet at Aqueduct. In 2011, he became the voice of the Triple Crown, so he has called the last four Belmont Stakes. In 2001, he subbed for Durkin on a Monday at Saratoga.

Collmus said there were many times over his career that he sought out Durkin for advice, especially before he started calling the Kentucky Derby.

“He said it’s pretty much what you think it is,” Collmus said. “The one thing you won’t have any problem with is having those 20 horses in your head. He was right about that because those horses are so well known by the time you get to post time, they’re like your best friends. It’s actually easier to memorize 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby than it is 10 horses in a maiden claimer because the horses mean more to you.”

Collmus left Florida for New York on Sunday, one day after calling the $1 million Florida Derby.

Collmus will actually maintain a schedule similar to one Durkin had in the 1990s where, in addition to calling the races at NYRA, he was the voice of Gulfstream Park, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders’ Cup.

“It is definitely going to be challenging to handle all of that, especially as I get older,” Collmus said. “I think right now I’m okay.”

mikey J More than 1 year ago
Good Luck Larry!!!!!!! I am also glad to see Eddie Castro's name back in the entries. Welcome back Eddie!!!!! You were definitely missed. Stay healthy and ride like the champ we all know you are...
James Cooke More than 1 year ago
It's just unfortunate we still have to painfully listen to Imbriale's horrible calls when Larry won't be there. I can only hope Travis will return for the remainder for my ear's sake......JC
anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, I so agree with you. I can't stand Imbriale and his stupid and meaningless emphasis on random words in a sentence. He is one of the worst but the worst is at Gulfstream now, the dude who took over from Collmus, God awful.
troy More than 1 year ago
Ha. I disagree. The guy at Gulfstream is much better than Imbriale. Imbriale is the worst race caller ever.
Tim Sr. More than 1 year ago
One of the worst days of my life was the day they announced Tom Durkin would not be calling the Breeders Cup, then the Kentucky Derby. I live on the west coast and love Trevor. As good as he is, and he is outstanding, he is no Tom Durkin. Race calling took a step back last August, the day he retired.
Big Rob stud More than 1 year ago
Wow you've had a fortunate life if that meant that much to you. Durkin was the best and will be missed but one of the worst days of your life?
tcuinaz More than 1 year ago
AAAAAnd There Off", first coined by Phil Georgeff, also first track announcer, to call all the first three finisher, and holds the record for most races called, also was Tom Durkin's idol. Georgeff best there ever was, better than Durkin or Trevor even though they are great also.
MARY HIRSCH More than 1 year ago
good luck
MARY HIRSCH More than 1 year ago
Larry will do an outstanding job. There is a reason NYRA, the Breeders' Cup and NBC's Triple Crown broadcast team all hired him. He will owe me a dinner for writing this about him. Bill Hirsch
Jeff Smith More than 1 year ago
Wish larry luck, but would like to say, travis stone did a fine job this winter calling the races at aqueduct. He has an excellent feel for race calling and can't wait to hear him again whenever possible
patersonplankrd . More than 1 year ago
You'll then be pleased to note that Travis Stone is the new race announcer at Churchill Downs
Andrew More than 1 year ago
I dont think larry collmus is a G1 race caller.
Pat Wood More than 1 year ago
Never was but it's the best now except for Trevoe. None of us are getting younger. Like Kurt Becker alot. Worked with Collmus fromis start and have had a bit much of him. HE IS GOOD but not every day. He's nor Phil Georgeff.
Reed Galinac More than 1 year ago
I'm not taking anything away from Larry Collmus - he's a fine choice, but I question how quickly NYRA made the decision after Tom's departure, especially if the new caller wasn't starting immediately. It smacked of "Well, Larry's got the NBC gig and he calls the Derby." NYRA wanted that high profile - wanted the Derby caller to be the Voice of NYRA. Game over. I don't know if Vic Stauffer applied, but since the demise of Hollywood Park, he is sorely missed, and he, too, is a BIG TIME race caller. I also would have strongly considered John Dooley (AP). It was such a big decision, I just think NYRA approached it almost perfunctorily. Plus, trying to place Tom was such a monumental event, NYRA marketers really fell asleep at the switch. They should have narrowed the choice to 3 callers and put it out for the fans to decide/vote on. Chances are, Larry would've gotten the job anyway, but what a windfall in PR/media attention, and an unprecedented, innovative move for a race track. One last note: sadly for Larry and the rest of us, the days when New York racing could be considered "the best racing circuit in the country" are long gone. And kudos to Larry for admitting, as all of us who've been there realize, that there's no place like Saratoga, and THAT'S the reason to covet the Voice of NYRA role.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The announcement was mad last August. It was taken with a lot thought and a lot of time. The day when Tom would retire was always there and they new it was coming. This took a few years of consideration. It's not like he surprised them on a Monday that he was retiring and on the Tuesday they had a new announcer.
Tim Sr. More than 1 year ago
Interesting.................NYRA is no longer the best circuit in the country.............but there is no place like Saratoga??? conflicting comments. I think the best racing, size of fields, quality of horses, certainly turf racing at Belmont and Aqueduct in the fall is far and away the best racing in this country and it's not even close. Gulfstream has declined, Keenland is Keenland now that they are back to dirt, I live on the west coast and So Cal racing is suffering. Thank God Del Mar is going back to dirt.
anonymous More than 1 year ago
Agreed. Belmont is the best day to day in the spring and fall. They have the best riders and now the best caller. Saratoga is OK, if you like small, stuck in time towns, I would rather Belmont and AQ do well as they are near very viable NYC.
Mary Hirsch More than 1 year ago
david, kudos for another insightful article! it gives ny racing fans a leg-up on this durkin successor - indeed a tough act to follow, but larry will do him justice