Track Announcers, Betting Handle, and a Shifting Racing Landscape

Racing
Santa Anita Park will have a new track announcer when it’s winter-spring season opens on Dec. 26. (Eclipse Sportswire)

When Santa Anita Park opens on Dec. 26, there will be a new man behind the microphone: Frank Mirahmadi. Mirahmadi is without a doubt an excellent racecaller.

The person Mirahmadi is replacing is also an outstanding racecaller, Michael Wrona.

This change has generated a lot of interest on social media. It seems split about 50-50 between those in the Mirahmadi camp and those in the Wrona camp. Personally, I’m in neither camp. I like both men and the work they do.

Frank Mirahmadi (right) with Larry Collmus. (Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)

What I had an issue with was how the change came about. A few years ago there was a worldwide search to find a successor to Trevor Denman at Santa Anita. Denman was cutting back on his workload to only call races at Del Mar.

After numerous people auditioned in Arcadia, Mirahmadi and Wrona were chosen to split the 2016 season. In March 2016, Wrona was named the permanent replacement.

Turn the clock forward to now and Wrona is out, Mirahmadi is in. So what happened?

My guess is it had something to do with the fact that the people who hired Wrona are gone. Tim Ritvo is the new Santa Anita boss. In his press release, he said he wanted to move “in another direction.” That’s well within his right. But it came across as pretty shoddy treatment of a loyal employee.

The thing about track announcers is this: No one bets even $2 more or less because of who that person is. The racecaller may affect your level of enjoyment, but that’s it.

In my 20 years of experience in racetrack publicity and marketing, I have worked with some of the very best.

At NYRA it began with Chic Anderson, Marshall Cassidy, Frank Dwyer and John Imbriale. At Garden State Park it was Ralph Siraco, Vic Stauffer and Jack Lamar. At Turfway Park it was Mike Battaglia. In New Jersey it was Dave Johnson and Tom Durkin at the Meadowlands and Larry Collmus at Monmouth Park. At Santa Anita it was Denman. And at Arlington International Racecourse it was Kurt Becker and Kevin Goemmer.

I enjoyed the work of all these men. Their voice was the signature of the track and they did all that they were asked to do.

The track that seems like the bad stepchild to some big announcer hires lately is Monmouth Park. Collmus left there for NYRA. Travis Stone left Oceanport for Churchill Downs. And now Mirahmadi leaves Monmouth for Santa Anita.

I feel bad for Wrona because he lost one of the plum jobs in horse racing. There are less announcer jobs than ever before, and the fraternity of racecallers is small.

Usually, when a change occurs it sets off a domino effect. Wrona would be a no-brainer to go to Monmouth. He is among the best there is right now. He had signed on to call at Kentucky Downs but their season is very short.

Regardless, the game of musical chairs means one announcer does not have a full-time seat for the time being. And while I wish Mirahmadi all the luck in the world with his admitted “dream job,” I hope the Santa Anita folks won’t expect their handle to go up just because of it.


Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies”, an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing.  For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at www.racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at rich_eng@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on Facebook.com.

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