Luke Kruytbosch The 'Voice of the Kentucky Derby' was a great, talented guy

Jul 22, 2008 7:02 PM

Golden Edge by Ed Golden | Nobody ever said a bad word about Luke Kruytbosch.

He was one of those rare individuals who was universally well-liked. So when the roly-poly track announcer at Churchill Downs died suddenly on July 13 at the age of 47, the racing industry was stunned with grief.

Kruytbosch (pronounced KRITE-boss), only the fifth announcer in the 134-year history of Churchill Downs to call the Derby for an on-track crowd, joined the storied track at its spring meet in 1999. He called 10 consecutive runnings of America’s greatest race, including Big Brown’s smashing victory on May 3.

The "Voice of the Kentucky Derby" had his moment in the sun with GamingToday in May of 1998. I was GT’s managing editor at the time and asked Luke if he would do a "fantasy call" of the Run for the Roses exclusively for our pre-Derby editions. Not only did he graciously consent, he called Real Quiet as the winner at 8-1 and it was better on the phone than it appeared in print.

"Luke was really a great guy, very much loved at the track," said Frank Mirahmadi, the Rich Little of track announcers who currently calls races at the Northern California fairs in addition to gigs for TVG. "He was a regular guy who wanted to hang out with his friends, watch the races and be around race track people. I never heard a bad word about him from anyone.

"As an announcer, he was extremely accurate and consistent and took pride in his work. He was a student of announcers who was very aware of the historical impact of getting the job at Churchill Downs, and he was very much in tune with announcers all around the country. He knew who called what race way back when."

Mirahmadi, 40, was born and raised in Los Angeles and was friends with Kruytbosch more than a dozen years.

"I met Luke the day he was auditioning for the job at Hollywood Park in December of 1995," said Mirahmadi, who has been calling races since 1996. "We shared phone numbers and were friends ever since. Luke prepared well in his memorization and would color code his program with crayons. He would color the silks of each horse into his program. He took it very seriously and made sure he was prepared on a daily basis."

Providing a correct description of a live horse race with verve and vitality is no easy feat. Kruytbosch and Mirahmadi can be numbered among the likes of Trevor Denman, Tom Durkin and Michael Wrona as among the best in the business.

"My first race call was in 1992 at Hollywood Park, but my first full time job was in 1996," Mirahmadi recalled. "Some of my more popular impersonations include Rodney Dangerfield, Marv Albert and Trevor. But several people consider my Luke Kruytbosch among my best, if not my best. Luke had a very distinct voice. It took me a while, but one day it finally came to me. Ed Burgart (track announcer at Los Alamitos) told me he thought Luke was my best impression."

Mirahmadi came by his flair for mimicry early on. "I used to imitate a bunch of different things when I was a kid," he said. "My dad took me to the track so often, I began to imitate announcers and became fascinated with them and started imitating their voices. I used to listen to a radio show called ‘Horse and Jockey’ with Jay Richards every day. I loved that show with its recreations (of races) and Jay did an amazing job. My brother (Fred) and I used to look forward to that at the end of the day. We’d be swimming in our backyard pool with ‘Horse and Jockey’ blasting on the radio, listening to the day’s recreations. I really believe that show increased my interest in the sport."

While his affection for Kruytbosch is a matter of record, Mirahmadi left no doubt as to his favorite announcer.

"It was, is and always will be Trevor Denman," Mirahmadi said. "He’s the best. He can follow a race like no other, he has an incredible voice and an unmatched delivery. But Luke always will hold a special place in my heart. He arranged for me to be part of the All-Star announcer day at Churchill in 2003, and that was definitely one of my career highlights. I called one race as myself and another imitating the other participants. It was a tremendous honor.

"Luke was a very good friend. Everyone loved him. I am pleased to see the outpouring of positive recognition for Luke in the media and on the Internet. It confirms what I always knew, that he was truly a lovable individual."

The homestretch

The Los Angeles Times had nary a word on Wednesday’s opening day at Del Mar in last Thursday’s sports section, but it did run two inches titled "Horse racing," explaining that "Because of ongoing reductions to The Times sports staff and space for news in the sports section, the handicap and results from Del Mar will not be included in the daily sports report."

Other weekly features that have been eliminated are the Gearing Up package on motor racing, Teeing Off on golf and Corner Kicks on soccer." If the editorially liberal Times was any more to the left, it would be in the Pacific Ocean. Although it spurned news of Del Mar’s opening, it did find more than 50 inches of space Thursday for a martial arts piece.

The next day, a story on ultimate fighting started on the first sports page and ran more than 120 inches. On Saturday, there were nearly two full pages on a Tigerless British Open and a half-page on Dodgers bust Andruw Jones.

All this is simply subjective overkill in an unnecessary attempt to be politically correct. As forecast in last week’s column, some 250 Times employees recently got their pink slips, including veteran handicapper Bob Mieszerski.

Surprisingly, on Sunday there was a 12-inch puff advance on the Eddie Read Handicap, and there will be more racing news, as soon as there’s a major scandal.