Jason Beem's Thursday Column for April 6, 2023
A good Thursday to you all! I wanted to write today about my favorite race call. I’ve long said that this race was not only my favorite race call, but the reason I got into race calling as an interest and eventually a career.
I think if you polled a lot of announcers that are working right now, there’s a decent chance that their favorite call is one from Tom Durkin. He called so many big races and put absolute poetry over the microphone as the soundtrack to those races. It’s quite possible that my second through fifth favorite calls would all be from him.
But my favorite race call was made back in 2005 by Vic Stauffer at Hollywood Park. Before I describe why I love the call so much, let me tell you the story of my tie to this call. I’ve told this over the years in a bunch of interviews, but I like the story, so if you’ve heard it, my apologies, but I’m going to share it again.
It was July 3, 2005 and I was at the Quarter Chute Cafe at Emerald Downs getting ready for that evening’s card at Emerald. The feature from Hollywood Park was coming up though, the Grade 1 American Oaks. I went over to the TV in one of the corners and turned up the volume to watch the race. I had noticed in the pre-race warmups that Cesario had run off and was really working up a sweat. She was the second choice I believe in the betting behind Melhor Ainda and I couldn’t get over how beautiful that granddaughter of Sunday Silence was.
I watched the race by myself and it was a true race and a call I’ll never forget. I remember Vic telling me once when he was on my podcast something to the tune of “great horses make great race calls.” Well on this day, Cesario was some kind of great horse and she ran a great race. Just absolutely demolished them.
Many times when people mention their favorite race call it’s because the announcer said something. A line that really resonated with them for some reason. And while this call is perfect in my opinion, there isn’t really a stand out “line” from the call. To me, what makes it so good is the build up and eventual big finish. The slow and steady rise in his voice and urgency in his words as this horse really pours it on.
To me the real moment of inflection is that final furlong and it really starts when Vic says “the Japanese Superstar!” at the eighth pole. Everything changes from that point on. I think he knows and most of us watching know the this horse is gone.
It would have been quite easy for him to just kind of bring her home as she dominates. But each little set of words from that eighth pole to the finish just ramps up the emotion more and more. “Cesario past mid-stretch, she’s running them off their feet, five lengths in front of Singhalese, Melhor Ainda might get into second, but NO WAY does she catch the winner, Cesario!”
Even reading those lines back, it doesn’t sound like that much other than a race call. But when you hear those words being delivered so excitedly and along with the video of that horse, to me it’s just perfect. To me it’s vintage Vic with all the pomp and circumstance I like in a big race call from him.
What I remember after watching that race was the hair on my arm standing up and tingling. I went out and bought binoculars the next day because I wanted to somehow chase that feeling and who knows, maybe someday I could do that too. Somehow that all worked out.
I so greatly envy announcers like Vic and others who can really step up and deliver in those big race moments and knock out not only a memorable call, but something that sometimes sticks with us as fans. Almost 20 years later, this remains my favorite race call. Enjoy.