Importance of the Caller
Race callers, also referred to as the track announcer, are an integral part of race days and the overall race experience. Track announcers are the horse racing world’s version of a sportscaster that you can hear or see on TV, radio, or live at the track. George Schilling was the first recorded person to ever call a race. The race that George Schilling called was in Tijuana, Mexico at Agua Caliente Racetrack in the early 1920’s. In 1927, Arlington Park was the first Thoroughbred track in the United States to install a public address system. At the time, Arlington had Charles “Clem” Luis McCarthy as their race caller. During his career he called major races such as the 1947 Preakness Stakes and the match race between Sea Biscuit and War Admiral.
The race caller’s job is to bring the races to life and energize the crowds, while essentially giving a play by play of the race. Prior to the races and all throughout the day, it is the race caller who will inform the crowd of the field condition, jockey changes, equipment changes, scratches, and any other pertinent information regarding the races. Once the race itself starts, the race caller will identify the names each horse and provide their position throughout the race, along with any sudden moves they may make. The caller also often calls out the fractions during a race, however that is not something that they have to do. During a race the job of the race caller is to paint a vivid and detailed picture of what is happening during the race. If you were to listen to the race caller on the radio, or close your eyes so that you were “watching” the race through their voice, a truly great caller will enable you to see the race clearly in your mind just as if you were watching the race live.
How much preparation does it take to get ready to call a race? The amount of preparation varies for each individual caller. The main pieces of information callers need to have memorized are the names of each horse and the colors of the jockey’s silks who will be riding each horse in the race. Every race caller has their own way of memorizing this information, whether it is via flashcards, handwritten notes or studying the program. Some even choose to draw colors of the jockey’s silks on their program next to the horses names to provide quick reference during the running of the race.
Depending on the track and the day, the announcer can have up to thirteen races to call with five to fifteen (amount of entries can be more or less) horses per race. Let’s say a track is running thirteen races with at least eight horses in each race, that means the caller is memorizing information on at least 104 horses throughout the day which they have to be able to identify in a split second during the running of the races. Race callers are amazing, dedicated professionals, who play an important part in making everyone’s race day experience a memorable one.