04/27/2011 3:00PM

Larry Collmus to replace Tom Durkin as Triple Crown announcer

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Larry Collmus, the race caller for Gulfstream and Monmouth Park, will replace Tom Durkin.

Larry Collmus, the Monmouth Park and Gulfstream Park race caller, has never called a 20-horse field in his life. He has 10 days to master the art.

Collmus, 44, was announced by NBC Sports on Wednesday as the new race caller for the notoriously challenging Kentucky Derby and the two other races in the Triple Crown, replacing Tom Durkin, the longtime New York race caller who elected to step aside from the Triple Crown broadcasts as of this year.

The announcement of Collmus as the next Triple Crown race caller was part of a larger release from NBC Sports detailing its broadcast teams for the three telecasts and its television schedule. In all, NBC and its sister cable network, Versus, will broadcast 27 hours of Triple Crown-related programming, the network said, including eight hours of live coverage on Derby Day, May 7.

Twenty of the broadcast hours for the three races will be on Versus, which NBC is trying to promote as a major sports network. The other seven will be on NBC. Among other coverage, Versus, which has broadcast a substantial number of live National Hockey League playoff games this year, will broadcast the Kentucky Oaks live on May 6.

NBC secured the rights to all three Triple Crown races earlier this year. The three races have not been on the same broadcast network since 2005, when NBC last had the rights to all three races. The current rights contract expires in 2015.

Durkin had called the last 30 Triple Crown races for network television, but he cited the need to alleviate “stress” in his life for deciding to step aside. Collmus said that as part of his preparation for the Derby broadcast, he’s going to review all of Durkin’s calls for the races.

“Following Tom is going to be a daunting task,” Collmus said. “He’s a legend. I have big shoes to fill.”

Collmus called his first race at Bowie Racetrack in Maryland when he was 18. He moved on to Monmouth Park in New Jersey in 1994, and in 2007, he was hired as the race caller at Gulfstream Park in Florida, in the process becoming well-known among horseplayers. But even some non-racing fans may be familiar with his name: his tongue-untied call of a race at Monmouth last year featuring a stretch battle between horses named Mywifenosevrything and Thewifedoesntknow was spotlighted on countless sports highlights shows.

Collmus called his selection to be the next Triple Crown broadcaster “a dream come true.”

“It’s all I’ve ever dreamed about,” Collmus said. “It’s incredibly exciting.”

Still, Collmus said that calling the Derby’s 20-horse field is an intimidating proposition. To prepare, he’s already started memorizing the colors of the silks for the potential entries, and imagining runnings of the field in his head.

“I have to know those horses like the back of my hand,” Collmus said.