02/13/2014 11:37AM

Larry Collmus named announcer at Churchill Downs

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Larry Collmus has been hired as the race-caller at Churchill Downs.

Larry Collmus has been named the new race-caller at Churchill Downs, replacing Mark Johnson, who had called at the Louisville, Ky., landmark since the 2009 spring meet.

For Collmus, 47, the hire represents yet another major coup in an announcing career that started in 1985 at the old Bowie in his native Maryland. Collmus has called the Triple Crown races since 2011 and the Breeders’ Cup since 2012, both for NBC Sports, while also serving as the regular caller at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park.

Collmus will be the third Churchill caller to call the Derby both ontrack and for television, following Chic Anderson and Mike Battaglia.
Collmus has resigned from Monmouth, where he called since 1994, because of the conflicting summer dates. Churchill, which now runs three meets, runs its spring meet through the end of June. Collmus basically will be off during July, August, and October while working at Churchill and Gulfstream during the other nine months.

Monmouth, which this year runs May 10 through Sept. 28, is seeking a new caller.

At Gulfstream on Thursday, Collmus said: “I’m thrilled to be joining Churchill Downs, the most famous track in the country, and it’s terrific to be able to stay here in south Florida during the winter and to stay as the voice of the Triple Crown and NBC Sports.”

Johnson, 48, had traveled to and from his home in England for every Churchill meet since being named the caller following the death of Luke Kruytbosch. At their 2008 meet, Churchill hosted five callers (one per week) for live auditions after Kruytbosch died in July of that year, with Johnson ultimately being given the job by a committee of Churchill officials. Collmus was among the other four who tried out.

A Thursday media release from Churchill said the track wishes Johnson “the very best after five good years” and that he “described some fantastic moments at our track.”

Collmus becomes the seventh caller in Churchill history, the first being Gene Schmidt, who began in 1940.