LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As the horses race to the finish there's an eye in the sky keeping track of it all.
His name is Travis Stone and he's the official voice of the Kentucky Derby.
Growing up one hour north of Saratoga Race Track in New York, he said he knew from a young age he wanted to be a track announcer.
"I was one of those kids, I'd come home and pretend to call races or pretend to play horse racing," Stone said.
He went to college for communications, then auctioneer school.
"Every morning we'd spend an hour doing these ridiculous things. Yeah. And then you'd go 10-20-30-40-50, you know, it's just, yeah, I had fun. It was a good time," he said.
And if you can believe it, his first Kentucky Derby was his first year on the job at Churchill Downs in 2015.
"It just got to the point I was like, 'Alright, you can't think about what you're doing. You can't get worried and get all anxiety ridden. You just have to go ahead and call this race,'" Stone said. "There's nothing like calling the Derby."
The Kentucky Derby kept him on his toes last year. The longshot, Rich Strike, came inside during the homestretch to win it.
"I thought for a moment I might be having a stroke right afterward because I had this overwhelming, like, headache -- the heat of the moment as they pass the wire -- but it was like so intense," Stone said.
The intensity that puts fans on the edge of their seats is the same for Stone, but from a spot above the finish line. If you look right above the Mansion, where you might find some celebrities, you will see a glass room. That's his sanctuary.
Like any good student, his materials are color coded and facts lined out. He studies the possible Derby field any chance he gets, nearly the whole month leading up to the Derby.
"I'm trying to find ways of just making it more interesting and different. I don't want any two races to sound the same," he said.
His tool box is a bit unusual: markers to memorize the silks and saddlecloths so he can match them to names and numbers.
He also has a homemade neck device to hold his program hands free.
"Without the markers, binoculars and the neck device, it'd be a pretty tough gig," he said.
His secret to never missing a race during Churchill Downs' season is his care for voice. He says Ricolas are his favorite, paired with plenty of water and throat coat tea.
"I'll miss one week this year 'cause my brother is getting married. But other than that, I mean, knock on wood, I've never called in sick," Stone said.
Rich Strike's win reminded him it's important every year to study every possible horse that could hit the starting gate.
"Your brain just processes it all so fast," he said. "And you just -- I just say his name. You just have to trust the process and trust the prep."
He said he remembers a moment he worried he had Rich Strike's info mixed up.
"And that was not fun. I even remember having anxiety until they put the number on the board. Like, did I call the right horse?"
In seconds he had to trust his gut that, yes, number 21 -- that's Rich Strike. It's a skill that takes weeks of preparation.
"It's like the nature of the game right? Every year there's going to be something and I think I just want to be ready for all of those possible scenarios," Stone said.
The next time you're at Churchill Downs, listen for his voice as he tells the story of each race, including Kentucky Derby 149.
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