So when is a retirement not really a retirement?
For track announcer Trevor Denman, we were told he is retiring as the voice of Santa Anita Park. That’s true. But then I got a Del Mar press release saying Denman will call the races there in 2016. Thus, he will still be working. Clearly this is not your normal retirement. Certainly not like two other great announcers Tom Durkin in New York or Dan Loiselle in Canada, who retired for good. These three men have all set a standard on the East Coast, in Canada and in Southern California that won’t easily be reached.
Durkin retired from the New York Racing Association at the end of the 2014 Saratoga meet. He began at the NYRA in 1990. Before joining NYRA, Durkin called the best harness racing in the world at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
Durkin’s incredible resume also included the Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Cup as well as Gulfstream Park each winter. Thus, for the last three decades his voice is most often heard for this country’s biggest stakes.
Loiselle retired at the end of May after 29 years calling the races at Woodbine. His biggest stakes each year was the Queen’s Plate, the Canadian equivalent of our Kentucky Derby.
When Loiselle was asked what he wanted to do upon retirement, he said he promised his wife Wendy a vacation to Las Vegas. I have a witness, Sportsbook Radio host Brian Blessing, who said he met up with his good friend Loiselle when he came to town.
As for Denman, Santa Anita Park made up for the bulk of his workload. If he calls just the two meets at Del Mar, it will be for about 60 days of racing.
The rest of the time will now be spent by Denman and his wife, Robin, working on their large farm in Minnesota.
Denman is credited with changing the style in which track announcers called races. It’s why he prefers to be called a commentator. No longer were just giving the name of the horse and the margins between animals enough.
Commentary and personality were added to the calls, which helped us enjoy the sport that much more.
The big question now will be who replaces Denman on a permanent basis. When Santa Anita opens on Dec. 26, they will use both Frank Mirahmadi and Michael Wrona to split the duties.
Wrona calls the races at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California. Magna Entertainment owns both Santa Anita and Golden Gate so he is a known commodity. Mirahmadi put all his chips into the center when he resigned his job at Oaklawn Park to purse this opening. Mirahmadi has called at Santa Anita when Denman was not available.
Santa Anita Park intends to conduct an international search for the next track announcer.
When Denman first came to the U.S. from South Africa in 1983, he auditioned at a handful of racetracks. He made the biggest impact on Alan Balch, vice president of marketing at that time at Santa Anita. Balch hired Denman to call the Oak Tree meet that fall.
It’ll be interesting to see who eventually wins the job. To me, calling the races at Santa Anita is still one of the most iconic jobs in our sport.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick