Industry Profile: Racing’s longest-tenured announcer – Richard Grunder

Heading to the stretch with horse racing’s longest-tenured announcerRichard Grunder has been at Tampa Bay Downs for 37 years, but his love affair with the sport has gone on much longer….

Like a magician rehearsing his tricks in the dark, Richard Grunder is whispering horses’ names to no one.

The day’s fourth race is still minutes away, but Grunder looks out the window of the Tampa Bay Downs announcer’s booth with binoculars raised and softly runs down a litany of calls for a race yet to be run. My Dirty Martini is leading, Sip ‘n Dip on the outside, here comes Crystal Sky. With nine races and 80 entries on the day’s schedule, Grunder takes a few minutes between bugle calls to memorize the names of the horses and the colors of the jockeys’ silks. Hello Rosie Say has moved to second, Yes It’s Free is third on the rail, two lengths back is Ellie Be Dancing.

Once upon a time, the names came much easier to his tongue but Grunder is not at all self-conscious about the extra effort it takes these days to make sure he gets it right. To Grunder, now 68, this is not so much a job but a calling that he has been following for a lifetime.

As a little boy, he would ride a train with his father from Dodge City, Kan., to Raton, N.M., for a weekend’s worth of action, then come home with a racing form in his fist and pretend to call races in the family’s living room.

Those were the first steps of a journey that took him to tracks across the Midwest and Canada before he eventually settled at Tampa Bay Downs and became the longest-tenured track announcer in the country. At least, until Sunday afternoon.