In the revolving door that was the track announcer’s job at Betfair Hollywood Park, Vic Stauffer entered the building in 2001 and slammed the door behind him.
When the iconic Harry Henson retired in 1982 after calling races at the Inglewood track since 1959, numerous track announcers went behind the microphone until Stauffer settled in the big chair.
There is no official list, but Kip Hannan and Roger Roman, keepers of the massive Hollywood Park video archive, have assembled a best-guess tabulation of all track announcers who have called at least one race at the historic track:
Joe Hernandez, Hal Moore, Harry Henson, Ralph Siraco, Bine Masters, Milo Perrins, Don Alexander, John Hernandez, Frank Mirahmadi, Jonathan Horowitz, George Ortuzar, Craig Ingram, Jim Byers, Alan Buchdahl, John Tapp, Michael Wrona, Trevor Denman, Luke Kruytbosch, Gary Henson, Ed Burgart and Chris Kotulak.
Stauffer, 54, was hired by former Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker. He’s proud of the fact that he has become the third longest tenured announcer behind Moore and Henson. For Stauffer, landing the job was a dream come true.
“I remember when I was 16 and listening to (Harry) Henson on the apron at Del Mar,” recalled Stauffer. “I knew it was the only thing I wanted to do. It’s an incredible gift to know what you want as a teenager and be right.”
Stauffer got his first official job as a back-up announcer at Garden State Park in 1985, the year Spend a Buck won the Jersey Derby. His first full time position was at Detroit Race Course and he went on to work at Blue Ribbon Downs, The Woodlands, Ak-Sar-Ben, Hawthorne, all the Northern California Fairs, Yakima Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park and Hialeah.
It sounds difficult moving around so much, but it wasn’t for Stauffer.
“When I was leading a nomadic lifestyle and hopping around, I loved every second of it,” said Stauffer. “I got to come to the races every day and call races, which I was always wanted to do.”
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to have the stability. If it were the major leagues, I’d love to be at Yankee Stadium. But I’m like Crash Davis (the main character from the 1988 film Bull Durham), I’m happy to play in Triple A.”
His traveling days haven’t exactly ended. Stauffer lives in Marin County (in Northern California) with wife Tina and commutes home every week.
“I fly in Thursday morning and fly out Sunday night,’’ he said. “Some people shake their heads, but if I lived in the (San Fernando) Valley and drove to the track, it wouldn’t take a heck of a lot longer.”
Through the years, Stauffer has never lost his enthusiasm for the game. His popular calls such as “Straight and strong!”,: “No way does he catch the winner!,” “Yes!,” and “You better take a look at!” are just as exciting in an $8,000 claimer as in a graded stakes.
Stauffer has tried his hand being a jock agent, first at the fairs and later in Southern California, where he represented Joel Rosario, Martin Garcia and Tyler Baze.
“I don’t see myself being a jock agent again,” said Stauffer, “at least not in Southern California. But you never say never.”
The ever resourceful Stauffer decided to get a steward’s license and passed the test in 2008. Because of his race calling duties, Stauffer has only been given assignments on the California fair circuit.
Pondering his future when Betfair Hollywood Park closes, Stauffer knows he has options.
“I maybe could work for TVG, try to get more work as a steward or be an agent again in Northern California,’’ he said. “I really enjoy being a steward.’’
But his preference is clear.
“I want to be a race caller,” he emphasized. “I would love for any track to call me. I want to be a race caller. That’s what makes me happy.”
Asked about his final race call at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 22, the final day of the Autumn meet, Stauffer smiled.
“I’m ready,’’ he said. “I know exactly what I’m going to say.”
PAYNTER BOUNCES BACK STRONG FROM FRIDAY COMEBACK VICTORY
Zayat Stable’s Paynter, who made a triumphant return Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park, came out of the race strong, according to Mike Marlow, assistant to Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.
Paynter’s successful battle against colitis and laminitis has captured the imagination of racing fans everywhere. For a half-hour after his victory Friday, the hashtag #PowerUpPaynter was trending fifth on Twitter, meaning Paynter was the fifth most popular subject in the entire United States.
“He’s real good this morning,” said Marlow. “He came back pumped up, like he didn’t even run. He wasn’t tired at all.
“He ate well last night and he’s happy this morning. He’s an amazing horse. His owners couldn’t have been happier if it was a Grade I. It was like a Grade I to them. The whole thing was good for racing.”
Paynter’s winning time for seven furlongs over Cushion Track was 1:21.86. Where the 4-year-old son of Awesome Again will run next has yet to be determined.
FIFTYSHADESOFHAY HEADS PROBABLES FOR GRADE II HOLLYWOOD OAKS
Fiftyshadesofhay, winner of the Grade II Black Eyed Susan May 17 at Pimlico, heads the list of probable starters for the $150,000 Hollywood Oaks. A Grade II for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track, the Oaks will be run for 68th time Saturday, June 22.
A daughter of Pulpit out of the Real Quiet mare Quiet Kim, Fiftyshadesofhay is 1-for-1 over Cushion Track, defeating maidens by 3 ½ lengths last Nov. 22.
The Bob Baffert-trained filly went on to win the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes two starts later before finishing second and third, respectively, in a pair of Grade I’s – the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks. A rider hasn’t been named..
Doinghardtimeagain and Iotapa, already stakes winners at the Spring/Summer meet, look like the primary threats. Doinghardtimeagain (Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, jockey Rafael Bejarano), has won two in a row, including the Melair Stakes April 27, while Iotapa (John Sadler, Joe Talamo) has won three of four, most recently the Railbird Stakes May 19.
In addition to Doinghardtimeagain, Hollendorfer plans to start Ciao Bella Luna (no rider), runner-up to Iotapa in the Railbird and winner of the Grade II Beaumont April 14 at Keeneland.
Baffert is also considering Ondine (no rider), who provided Rafael Bejarano with his 3,000th lifetime victory May 11. The Hall of Fame trainer also nominated Sweet Marini and Tres Belle to the Oaks.
Completing the list of likely starters is Unusual Way (Edwin Maldonado), winner of the $100,000 Campanile Stakes June 1 at Golden Gate Fields.
CLOSING STRIDES —The jockey standings have been tight all meet, but defending Spring/Summer champion Rafael Bejarano found some breathing room with a Friday five-bagger. Bejarano leads Joe Talamo 36-32. Edwin Maldonado and Tyler Baze are next with 31 victories apiece….John Sadler remains on top in the trainer’s race with 18 wins, followed by Bob Baffert and Peter Miller with 15, and Doug O’Neill and Jerry Hollendorfer with 13………The 80z All Stars will perform a concert after the races as part of Hollywood Park’s final Friday night racing program July 5. Racing begins at 7:05 p.m. The concert will start after the conclusion of the final race, approximately 11 p.m.…Nothing exotic about Paynter’s name: It came from a fellow who was painting Baffert’s new house.
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