Luke Kruytbosch, the announcer at historic Churchill Downs and the “Voice of the Kentucky Derby” since 1999, has died.
His body was found Monday morning in an apartment Kruytbosch (pronounced KRITE-boss) was renting in Evansville, Ind. No official cause of death has been announced, but published reports indicate that it appears that he had died of natural causes.
Kruytbosch, 47, had just completed his announcing duties for the 52-day Spring Meet at Churchill Downs and had announced races during the first three days of the racing meet at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky.
“The entire Churchill Downs family and all of racing are deeply saddened and shocked by the passing of Luke Kruytbosch,” said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs and executive vice president of Churchill Downs Incorporated. “Luke was a marvelous talent with a timeless announcing style that connected directly with fans throughout North America. He was a gregarious person who loved life and was great ambassador for racing. But Luke was never happier than when he was in the announcer’s booth – especially on the first Saturday in May for the Kentucky Derby. This is a terrible loss for our track and our sport, and Luke will be deeply missed.”
Kruytbosch joined Churchill Downs at the start of its 1999 Spring Meet and his first call of the Kentucky Derby came in the 125th renewal won by Robert and Beverly Lewis’ Charismatic. He called 10 consecutive runnings of America’s greatest race, including this year’s victory by IEAH Stable and Paul Pompa Jr.’s Big Brown.
Kruytbosch was only fifth announcer in the 134-year history of Churchill Downs to have called the Kentucky Derby for an on-track crowd. The first was Gene Schmidt, who was followed by legendary announcer Chic Anderson. Then came Mike Battaglia, who called the Kentucky Derby from 1978-96, and Kurt Becker, who held the post for less than two years and called the “Run for the Roses” in 1997-98.
He launched his professional career as an announcer following his graduation from the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry program. He had honed his skills by calling races at fairs in the southwest while in college, and had his first paying job as an announcer at New Mexico’s The Downs at Albquerque. He later called races at New Mexico’s Santa Fe and Sunland Park, and in 1991 got the job of calling Quarter Horse races at Ruidoso Downs, where he the All-American Futurity, that breed’s premier event. From there he called Thoroughbreds at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, but then got the biggest break in his career when he moved into the announcer’s booth at Hollywood Park, where he spent three years.
When Becker decided to give up his job after a brief tenure at Churchill Downs, Kruytbosch was chosen from a crowded field of candidates who sought the announcer’s job at the home of the Kentucky Derby. He was formally introduced as the announcer at Churchill Downs in 1999 and called his first race under the historic Twin Spires on April 24, the opening day of the 1999 Spring Meet.
Kruytbosch was not married and had no children. Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of Monday afternoon.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009. The track’s 2008 Fall Meet is scheduled for Oct. 26-Nov. 25. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.