Veteran horseracing caller Larry Collmus is set to return to Far Hills for a second year. Best known as the voice of the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup, Collmus is widely considered one of professional racing’s most acclaimed race caller. Throughout his nearly 40-year career, Collmus has amassed a long list of accomplishments, including calling Triple Crown-winning victories for American Pharoah and Justify. Last month, he called the historic 148th Kentucky Derby, where he perfectly echoed the thrill of long-shot Rich Strike’s momentous come-from-behind victory, exclaiming, in a piercing tone, “oh my goodness, the longest shot has won the Kentucky Derby!”
Though best known for thoroughbred racing, Collmus is also well versed in the sport of steeplechase, having spent five years as the race caller at Saratoga Race Course. He says he’s a big fan of steeplechase racing, which he views as “more about sport than money” and looks forward to returning this fall to Far Hills to soak up its unique celebratory atmosphere.
“Far Hills is more of a party,” Collmus said. “One thing I noticed was the age of the crowd. People are always asking ‘how can we make horseracing more appealing to a younger crowd?’—and this was full of college kids having a great time. It was a real ‘people experience,’ with whole generations of families behind the track and people dressed in fancy hats like at the Kentucky Derby.”
For his first year at Far Hills, Collmus recalled the excitement of the centennial running and the marquee race—the Grand National—which featured Mean Queen beating out Snap Decision to become the first female winner of the Grand National since Sea Tale in 1923. This win ultimately elevated Mean Queen to receive the Eclipse Award, bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements in North America have earned them the title of “champion” in their respective categories, and voted on by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
Collmus—who, in 1985, became the youngest race caller in the country, calling for Bowie Race Track, Laurel Park, Pimlico, and Timonium Racetrack in Maryland—credits his father for indirectly inspiring his career path. His father installed sound systems at the Maryland State Fair Grounds and, though Collmus soon discovered he was “mechanically incompetent,” he nonetheless fell in love with horse racing and the characters at the track.
In addition to calling the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup for NBC Sports, Collmus is also an announcer for TVG and analyzes races at Monmouth Park.
When preparing for a major event such as the Kentucky Derby, Collmus will typically spend months watching prep races around the country, making flash cards with jockey silks, and getting a feel for the horses, not only their styles but post positions, as well.
For Far Hills Race Meeting last year, Collmus said he puts in several days of pre-race preparation. This is a lot more that what he does for a regular day at the track—which is more about “abusing his short-term memory.”
“Far Hills is so unique, so I watched a bunch of previous races to get a feel for it and to know where the jumps are,” he said. “There is a lot more to steeplechase racing. When I was calling at Saratoga, I used to draw maps of where the jumps were. It takes more preparation than with flat thoroughbred racing.”
Collmus said he’s grateful for all the opportunities he’s had in his long career, especially calling the first winner of the Triple Crown—American Pharoah—in 37 years.
“Calling American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown was the single-most exciting part of my career,” he said. “At that moment, you’re calling history. I was preparing what I wanted to say, and luckily, the horse won by enough that I was able to say it. The euphoria was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I was just in awe of what happened.”
Ready to hear Collmus call the 101st running of the Far Hills Race Meeting? Make sure to reserve your spot today.