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The excitement in their voices

Posted: June 16, 2011 10:33 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2011 5:00 a.m.

You know one of the things I really like about horse racing?

Tell you in a minute, after I confess that despite living in Camden for almost four decades, I don’t know much about the equine world.

I know it’s fun going to the Carolina Cup. I know racing, especially steeplechasing, is dangerous. I know jockeys are darned good athletes, because standing up in those stirrups while a horse is galloping can’t be easy. I know horses that run well in rainy conditions are called mudders.

But that’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge.

But one thing I really like is that the announcers at horse races get excited.

I watched the Belmont Stakes Saturday. Animal Kingdom, who had won the Kentucky Derby, tripped coming out of the starting gate. A couple of jockeys almost fell off their horses. It was sort of like The Three Stooges Take A Ride.

In the end, a 24-to-1 long shot named Rule On Ice won the race.

The announcer -- I later found out his name is Tom Durkin, and he’s been calling races for decades -- sounded really excited as Ruler On Ice and Stay Thirsty approached the finish line side by side.

Announcers at football games, on the other hand, always sound as if they don’t care at all what happens. They’re trained to never show emotion, never indicate which team they’re pulling for, never act as if the game is anything but a big snoozer.

But that kind of takes the fun out of things.

I remember a few years ago after Bob Fulton retired as the radio announcer for the University of South Carolina, they hired a guy named Charlie Something or Other, but he didn’t last long because you couldn’t tell listening to him whether he even cared if the Gamecocks beat Clemson.

Heck, USC fans wanted to know their announcer was pulling for their team, not the opponents. Clemson fans would expect the same thing from their announcer.

It’s a lot more fun listening to someone like Tom Durkin call a race. The horses are competing, the fans are excited and the announcer is yelling. Woohoo! 

The guy who mans the microphone at the Carolina Cup and the Colonial Cup always sounds excited, too. I’m not sure how he keeps up with all those horses, especially when they’re way over there on the far side of the track, but somehow he manages to identify them all properly, all the while building emotion to a fever pitch.

Horse owners get excited when their thoroughbreds win, too. That’s good. A lot of time and money get invested in race horses, and the owners have a right to display their pleasure.

Heck, last spring when a horse owned by Camdenites George and Sue Sensor won the Carolina Cup race, it wasn’t too hard to tell how excited they were. The winner’s circle was sort of like a three-ring circus.

Contrast that to some of those guys who own professional sports franchises, and the differences are evident.  They sometimes act as if winning a world championship is no more thrilling than inking a new contract for one of their Manhattan office towers.

The first time I ever saw race horses on a real up-close-and-personal basis was when I was a young reporter and my assignment was to photograph the Carolina Cup. I’d attended a few Cups while I was in college, but that’s a story we don’t want to get into.

When the first race went to post and those big steeplechasers came thundering over the jump only a few feet away from me, I was flabbergasted by the sheer energy of it all -- the speed, the power, the adrenalin.

I’ve had a healthy respect for those horses -- and the jockeys, of course -- since then. It’s not hard to understand their excitement.

But let’s give credit where credit is due -- to those golden-throated announcers who make sense out of it all, and in a most enthusiastic manner.

Long may they yell.

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