The connections of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and Preakness (GI) winner California Chrome aren’t the only ones who are anticipating the June 7 Belmont Stakes to be the biggest day of their careers. Churchill Downs and NBC track announcer Larry Collmus will call the Belmont Stakes on network television – his first Belmont call with the Triple Crown on the line.
When asked if the 2014 Belmont would be the biggest call of Collmus’ career he responded, “Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner in 36 years and to be able to call that race if it does in fact happen is tremendous.
“There will be two of us, Tom (Durkin) and I, who will call it and just to be able to be one of those guys and to get to do it for network television is just incredible and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Collmus discussed some of his feelings this past week at Churchill Downs as he mentally prepares for the Belmont.
“I’ve been trying to get myself as prepared as possible for it because it is a first for me,” Collmus said. “I want to be able to come up with the right thing to say if the event happens. I also think it’s important to make it about the moment and try to stay out of the way.
“It’s basically coming up with a thing that would be most appropriate if it happens; I can’t say what that is but I have a good idea of what I want to do at this point. Also, even though the focus of the race call will be about California Chrome, I have to know all the horses in the race, so the studying like any other race comes into play with regards to getting all those horses’ names in your head. Luckily, save maybe one or two, I’ve called all of them before, which is a big advantage.
“You also want to prepare for the ‘what if’ scenarios where he doesn’t win. No matter what your preparation is, you also have to be able to react to anything. You never know what’s going to happen, so if you treat it like any other race you’ve seen and are ready to react to scenarios like you always are, then that’s good too. You don’t want to pre-plan too much is basically what I’m saying.”
Collmus also mentioned that he’s watched past Belmont Stakes races with the Triple Crown on the line and studying the calls.
“I’ve listened to a lot of them,” Collmus said. “I’ve listened to the Triple Crown successes, which were pretty much Chic Anderson calls of Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. I also have listened to Triple Crown ‘failures,’ if you want to use that word; a lot of those were Tom Durkin and Dave Johnson calls.
“I’ve learned a lot from those calls. For example when Smarty Jones ran in the Belmont, the beginning of Tom’s call was very low key and I think it’s because the race is so long, that you really need to start slow. I think he built it up well and he was dead on to do that.
“In the Chic calls, other than the world-famous ‘Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine,’ he didn’t get overly dramatic in those races, but I think that was more just his style too. I can’t see myself being able to tone it down enough to sound like that.
“I’m just going to react the way it makes me feel like any other race does. I don’t want to be screaming like a maniac, but at the same time there will be a tremendous level of excitement.”
Collmus also touched on an interesting fact about the third jewel of the Triple Crown with regards to the ability to see and call horses that late in the evening with the way the sun sets on Belmont Park.
“On a sunny Belmont Stakes day, with the race going off early in the evening (6:52 p.m. ET), you have a major issue with horses’ colors and jockey silks colors changing. When I called the Belmont last year, it was the first time I had ever dealt with a sunny Belmont.
“I was warned by Tom Durkin about it because when the horses turn for home, they actually look like silhouettes. So you better know who they are before they turn for home because they’re very tough to identify for almost an eighth of a mile. It’s from about the top of the stretch to the eighth pole. Once they get to the eighth pole, you’re fine.
“For an example Orb, who had white silks with a red stripe, looked black – it changed it that much. You have to be prepared for that and I’m glad that last year I got a chance to call a sunny Belmont because it is definitely a concern. Needless to say I’m rooting for clouds on Belmont Day. No need to rain, but clouds would be fine.”
When asked how exactly an announcer does make sure he knows the horses in the infamous colorblind spot, Collmus said “I think the key to that is to make sure you don’t go too far back before they turn for home and just be aware of who those leaders are. If someone should make a big move from behind at that point, you have to hope you know who it is. In the case of last year there wasn’t much going on as they were turning for home, which is usually the case often times in those longer races.”
As of Sunday morning the National Weather Service projected Saturday’s weather forecast for Elmont, NY to be ‘Mostly Sunny, with a high near 79.’
MIZ IDA HEADS LIST OF PROBABLES FOR EARLY TIMES MINT JULEP
Richard Klein and Bertram Klein’s Miz Ida, winner of the 2013 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII), tops the list of probable starters pointed to the 2014 edition which will be run Saturday, June 7 at Churchill Downs. Trained by Steve Margolis, the 5-year-old daughter of Proud Citizen finished seventh in her last start, the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII) on May 3.
The 1 1/16-mile turf contest for fillies and mares carries a purse of $100,000-added and had 24 nominations at its closing.
Of those nominations, probable starters include Hot Tempo for trainer Bernie Flint, who comes off a win in the Matron at Evangeline Downs; graded stakes winner I’m Already Sexy for Wayne Catalano, sixth in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII); stakes-placed Maid on a Mission for trainer Tommy Mills, coming off an allowance optional claiming win at Churchill Downs; and the Bret Calhoun-trained Tapit’s World, who took an allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn in her last start by 5 ½ lengths.
Post positions for the Early Times Mint Julep will be drawn Wednesday.
DOWN THE STRETCH
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing, last seen taking an allowance race at Churchill Downs in his 4-year-old debut, had a bullet five-furlong workout in :58.60 under the Twin Spires Sunday morning with jockey Robby Albarado on board. Trained by Al Stall, Departing is being pointed to the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) on June 14.
“He looked really good,” Stall said. “He’ll be ready to go in the Foster.”
Stall also said that Churchill Downs (GII) winner Central Banker would have his final workout Monday morning and would ship to Belmont Park for Saturday’s $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (GI).
Kaleem Shah’s Bayern, ninth in the Preakness (GI), worked five furlongs in :59.40 for trainer Bob Baffert, and is nominated for the $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) on June 14…
James F. Miller’s Aurelia’s Belle, ninth in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and scratched from Saturday’s $100,000 Penn Oaks, breezed five eighths of a mile in 1:01 for trainer Wayne Catalano. She’s nominated to the $100,000-added Regret (GIII) on June 14…
Donegal Racing’s Cleburne, ninth in the American Turf (GII), clocked five furlongs in 1:01.20 for trainer Dale Romans.
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Thursday, June 5
Friday, June 6 – Happy Hour
Saturday, June 7 – Belmont Stakes Simulcast
Sunday, June 8