Sports fans growing up in Southern California had the great fortune to hear Vin Scully calling Los Angeles Dodgers baseball, Dick Enberg as the voice of the then California Angels and Los Angeles Rams, Chick Hearn as the announcer of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Bob Miller at the microphone for Los Angeles Kings hockey.
Horse racing fans were just as lucky. There was Trevor Denman calling the thoroughbred races at Santa Anita and Harry Henson at Hollywood Park and Del Mar.
For Quarter Horse racing fans, they’ve had the pleasure of listening to Ed Burgart. He will turn off the microphone to what has been an iconic 39-year career Sunday when they run the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.
Burgart went to UCLA and was the Sports Editor of the Daily Bruin in 1973 when famed horse racing handicapper Gordon Jones spoke there at a journalism class. Burgart asked Gordon Jones how he could become involved in the horse racing business, and Jones offered to take the student to the Hollywood Park press box and introduce him around.
“Gordon Jones was instrumental in helping me get started in the horse racing business” said Burgart.
After graduation, Burgart worked as a sports writer for the Orange Coast Daily Pilot newspaper, and when a job came open at Los Alamitos that included broadcasting race results to various radio stations and writing press releases, Burgart was contacted and took the job. In 1978, Burgart and long-time handicapper Warren Eves started a publication at Los Alamitos called the Quarter Horse Report. The publication featured selections, but also included workout information and trouble notes that at the time were ground-breaking.
“Publishing the Quarter Horse Report and watching the head-on view of horses breaking really helped me to improve my skills prior to becoming the track announcer,” said Burgart. “Dr. (Edward) Allred (owner of Los Alamitos) took notice of the publication and the work I put in and I think it was a big reason I was given the track announcer position.”
Burgart became the track announcer following the retirement of Bobby Doyle, and Saturday’s Champion of Champions, the signature race for Los Alamitos, will be his 39th. His favorite Champion of Champions may have been the first one he called in 1981.
“Denim N Diamonds, who was owned by R.D. Hubbard (former owner of Hollywood Park and Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico), beat Sgt. Pepper Feature, who came back to win the Champion of Champions in 1982,” Burgart said. “Both were special horses, and Mike Robbins, who trained Sgt. Pepper Feature, has Mr. Ricks in Sunday’s Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. Mike and I go way back.”
When Denman took a three-week vacation during the fall meets at Hollywood Park in 1995 and 1996, Burgart was named as his replacement and called the thoroughbreds during the day at Hollywood Park and the Quarter Horses at night at Los Alamitos. Dr. Allred saw how well Burgart was received announcing the races at Hollywood Park and called him into his Los Alamitos office after the 1996 replacement stint.
“What am I paying you?” Dr. Allred asked Burgart. “I am going to pay you more and you are going to sign a contract.” And that was that.
Burgart originally married his wife Marsha in 1977. The marriage lasted just a short period, but when Marsha decided to contact Ed in 1981, she was not sure where he was working at the time. Burgart was announcing at Bay Meadows..
“She managed to find me when she called a local bar near Bay Meadows,” recalled Burgart. They were re-married shortly thereafter and remain together today.
While at Bay Meadows, Burgart remembers calling the first Stakes winner for a young trainer.
“A Quarter Horse named Kellys Coffer was Bob Baffert’s first Stakes winner at Bay Meadows during that 1981 meet,” said Burgart.
They’ll run the Two Million Futurity, also known as “The Deuce,” for the 25th time on Sunday and Burgart has called them all. Horseplayers should make a point to listen in one final time.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Los Alamitos Friday Race 6 – Herunbridledpower (No. 7). Win machine is based at Los Alamitos, comes into the race off two sharp victories under the lights, and can handle the one-mile track configuration. She should get a nice pace-pressing trip from favorable outside post.