Churchill Downs track announcer discusses his craft - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Churchill Downs track announcer discusses his craft

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The new announcer at Churchill Downs will soon be calling his third Kentucky Derby, but this year is the first time he'll be doing it as the track's official announcer.

Larry Collmus is known for what turned out to be a comical situation when he called a race with similarly named horses: "The Wife Doesn't Know" and "The Wife Knows Everything." They finished neck and neck.

Collmus says he had no idea until about an hour before the race, but he hopes that's not the only reason people remember him. 

"'To be honest with you, I'd rather be remembered for calling the Kentucky Derby than for that race, but, you know, I'll take what I can get."

Collmus has called the Kentucky Derby for NBC for the past three years, but he didn't settle into his booth on the sixth floor of Churchill Downs until last week.

"It's pretty much the best seat in the house," Collmus said.

He says he is accustomed to the pressure but can't shake a case of nerves this year.

"You can call a thousand Kentucky Derbies, and you'd be nervous," Collmus said. "They're listening to every word you say, and you don't want to be the one that messes up the Kentucky Derby."

So what does Collmus do to make sure that doesn't happen?

"Study, study, study."

Collmus says he started prepping in February, watching three-year-old horses in races across the country.

"I'm looking at not only how the horses ran, but what the color of the jockey silks are because that's how I'm going to memorize those horses and get ready by the time the Derby comes around."

Every announcer has his or her own technique for memorization, but Collmus keeps it in his head.

"Get those horses in your head by studying those jockey silks, and as soon as the race is over, bam! They're gone out of your head and you move on to the next one."

That's his secret -- at the track and on TV.

"I heard they might have two headsets for me," Collmus said. "I'll have the NBC producers talking in one ear, and guys from Churchill talking in the other ear. And I'll try to tune them both out."

Thankfully, the weather for Derby doesn't call for rain, which can cause the horses to kick up a lot of mud that obscures the jockey silks.

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