Churchill Downs' new announcer fulfills childhood dream
At the track, a great race is like a song. Horses and jockeys create the music, while the announcer crafts the lyrics. Travis Stone is Churchill Downs newest musician.
Thursday, April 23rd 2015, 4:24 PM EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The dreams of a 9-year-old little boy will come full circle at Churchill Downs. His voice will call history on the 141st Run for the Roses.
At the track, a great race is like a song. Horses and jockeys create the music, while the announcer crafts the lyrics.
Travis Stone is Churchill Downs newest musician. He is just the eighth announcer in Churchill Downs history.
"Twenty Horses starting at the top of the stretch and running directly at you -- that's pretty amazing to think about," Stone said as he stood perched in the window of the announcers suit. "Look at this seat for the Kentucky Derby. The finish line is right down there, " he said smiling from ear to ear.
It's a dream Stone's had since he was a child.
"I'd come home and play horse racing and I'd race matchbox cars around my parents' floor," he said. "I use to race marbles. I had a very sophisticated marbles racing association when I was nine years old."
Stone's considered young for the job, at just 31 years of age -- but with 10 years behind the mike, he's made some signature calls, from the Louisiana Downs to Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
"I use the thesaurus and tried to find more ways to describe two horses battling it out," he said. "And 'locked horns,' 'locked in battle,' 'eye-to-eye,' 'cross swords,' 'neck-in-neck,' 'nose-and-nose,' 'shoulder-to-shoulder,' all of these different things, and you hope when two horses are coming down the stretch together, one of these things will just come right out."
He prepares his ballad in just two-and-a-half minutes, using a Crayola marker as his baton. Before each race, he marks the jockey's silk color and commits it to memory.
"Maybe he's got some stripes on his sleeves," he said.
It's harder than it looks -- much, much harder -- but the best composers make it look easy.
Stone's first concert at Churchill downs is this Saturday -- one week of on-the-job training, and then the big event, Derby 141.
"It will pretty wild to stand here and look down at 160,000 people, I'll tell you that much," Stone said.
A sellout for sure.
"It's the greatest job in the world," Stone said. "Not even a job. If you can get paid to do something you love, it's never a job, it's just a bonus. That's what this is. Pretty Cool."
Stone replaces Larry Collmus who left Churchill Downs after one year when he was offered a position with NBC Sports.
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