Back from Florida, where my daughter Kayla graduated from the University of Miami.
I guess this is an appropriate photo for the times in which we live.
Yeah, I'm pretty proud of her!
A couple of relevant news items caught my attention upon my return. Tom Durkin has announced his retirement as the track announcer at NYRA after 24 years. Some quick math reveals that he started in 1990, coming from the Meadowlands, where he called harness races (strangely, that stint was omitted from all of the news reports that I've seen). It's been a great ride for Durkin. However, his retirement, effective after the August 31 program at Saratoga, cannot come as a surprise to anyone who's heard his labored calls this year.
There will of course be much speculation as to his replacement. Personally, I rarely get the kind of chills from race calls that I did way back when. Maybe I've just heard too many of them. Or perhaps it's because there just is not the kind of young talent with the kind of genuine enthusiasm who used to get me all pumped up. Dave Johnson, Chic Anderson and, on the harness side, Ed Gorman. Some of the greatest races I ever saw, I never actually saw at all. The race calls told the whole story. It's been a long time since anybody has gotten me as excited as those guys used to.
Having said that, there are plenty of fine announcers out there. Two of them recently got high profile jobs which they perhaps wouldn't have applied for if they'd been paying closer attention to the racing at NYRA over the last year or so. Personally, and those hirings notwithstanding, I think Vic Stauffer is the best guy out there, and he's not calling races anywhere these days. I'd be thrilled to hear him call races here. Kurt Becker (Keeneland) and Frank Mirahmadi (Oaklawn) would be fine choices as well. [UPDATE: And definitely should have mentioned John Dooley (Arlington/Fair Grounds) as well; thanks to reader ljk.]
And then, there is the announcement of the entertainment choices for Belmont Stakes day. Oh, boy. Well, anyone who's followed this blog over the years when I had time to write about music, or has seen my occasionally-updated Playlist selections, knows that I wouldn't be happy unless the acts were booked by Bowery Presents or Todd P or Chris White. But I don't even know what to say about this. I thought at least they'd book bands that would actually draw people even if they were the wimpy pop or faux-punk crap that dominates what passes for "popular" rock music these days. LL Cool J was cool 20 years ago. I didn't know (nor care if) Frank Sinatra Jr was still alive....and Bernie Williams? Seriously? Chris Kay said: "We want everyone to come out and kick off the New York summer party season with a great afternoon of racing, complemented by a great day of entertainment and enhanced food and beverage options." Guess we'll have to settle for the racing and food.