Remembering Birmingham’s First Track Announcer

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Larry Colmus fbBy Art Parker

It’s been so long few people in Birmingham, Alabama will remember. In 1987, the Birmingham Turf Club opened with promise of being the new “place” in thoroughbred racing. That promise quickly faded as the owners paid a price for trying to run before they could walk by overbuilding and opening doors without much operating cash. The season started with good horses and good purses. About a month after it opened the Birmingham Turf Club crowned an Alabama Derby winner named Lost Code that was thrust into racing’s spotlight and would eventually challenge Bet Twice and Alysheba at the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Before the end of the meet in October the track was running a card full of $3,500 claimers.

Even fewer people will remember the track announcer at Birmingham its first year. It was 20 year old Larry Collmus.  A native of Baltimore, Collmus had been an assistant announcer in his home state before landing the Birmingham job.

I remember Birmingham in 1987 and hearing Collmus call the races. There were few experienced race goers in Birmingham at the time. For much of the meet patrons were trying to figure out the difference between an exacta and a trifecta instead of paying attention to the race calls. I recall telling a friend that Collmus sounded young but appeared to be very talented. I knew then he would be around the game a long time.

Collmus (age 47) still sounds young and he still does a great job. Collmus has called races around the United States and last year he became the voice of the Kentucky Derby when he landed the job at Churchill Downs.

Now the talented Collmus is changing addresses again. Just this week he landed the track announcer job on America’s biggest racing stage, New York. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced that Collmus will be its voice beginning next April. The current voice of NYRA, Tom Durkin, is stepping down after the Saratoga meet, concluding many years of distinguished service.

NYRA made a good decision and I believe we will hear Collmus calling the Belmont Stakes and the Travers for a long time.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 15-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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