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Churchill Downs hires Englishman to call races

Churchill Downs hires Englishman to call races

The home of the Kentucky Derby has a new voice _ with a British accent.
Churchill Downs hired Mark Johnson as the track's new announcer Thursday. Johnson replaces Luke Kruytbosch, who died last summer of a heart attack at age 47.
The 42-year-old Englishman won the job over four other announcers to become the voice of the track's spring and fall meets, including the Kentucky Derby.
"I'm going to try and be as varied and as lively and as different as you can," Johnson said. "We all know you can't call every race like it's the Kentucky Derby. That way, you'd have no voice after a week.'
Johnson has been a fixture at British tracks for years, calling some of the country's highest profile races like the Epsom Derby and St. Leger Stakes. Johnson called one week of races during the 2008 fall meet at Churchill Downs before getting the nod over four other finalists.
Johnson said he prepped for his tryout by watching taped races at the track over the Internet and practicing the call.
"I just sat there with the sound turned down and my computer on and tried to call some of the races," he said. "It's not like just getting off the plane and walking into a booth. I will be doing a lot of homework."
The Derby won't be completely new to Johnson. He's helped anchor television coverage of the race in Britain and admits he'd get goose bumps when "My Old Kentucky Home" would play during the post parade before the Derby.
"I'm going to have the biggest lump in my throat," Johnson said. "It gets you 4,000 miles away across the pond. When I get to the top of that booth, it will definitely get to me."
Johnson was one of five finalists who each had a weeklong tryout during the track's fall meet. He was chosen over Larry Collmus, Bobby Neuman, Travis Stone and Michael Wrona by a committee of track executives.
"In our eyes, Mark Johnson is the complete package when it comes to track announcer," Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton said. "He is a unique, polished and passionate talent with an absolutely infectious personality."
Johnson will continue working various meets in England in between stints at Churchill Downs.
"This was the next goal," Johnson said. "(Getting to call races in America) is what first attracted me to Churchill Downs. In some respects the bonus is that there happens to be a race called the Kentucky Derby as well."


Updated : 2021-06-19 23:44 GMT+08:00