Southern California race fans have been blessed to have the opportunity to listen to two of the greatest race callers in the history of the sport during the past 30-plus years — Harry Henson and Trevor Denman.
The late Henson, who called the races at Hollywood Park and Del Mar, was my all-time favorite. His distinctive call, “And there they go!” and his dramatic calls of stretch duels — “It’s Cougar and Quicken Tree, Cougar and Quicken Tree, Quicken Tree and Cougar …. and Quicken Tree is the winner by a head” — were as good as they get.
Denman, who currently is track announcer for Santa Anita, Del Mar and Fairplex Park, has his own distinctive flair, and his call of Zenyatta’s stirring victory in last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was outstanding. I truly think it was his greatest hour.
Current Hollywood Park announcer Vic Stauffer says he wouldn’t be in the business today if not for Henson.
“When I was a young man, I found myself listing to the announcers way more than my friends, and I came up at a time that was a real salad day in Southern California for announcers because Dave Johnson was calling Santa Anita and Harry was calling Hollywood Park and Del Mar, and I knew that I wanted to try to be like them,” Stauffer said. “Harry was my inspiration, and the first time I heard Tom Durkin, I knew that’s who I wanted to try to emulate.
“People have said to me, ‘You sound a little like Tom Durkin,’ and I say, ‘Well, there’s a reason for that. Because I’m not good enough to sound exactly like Tom Durkin. Because if I could, I would.’ In my opinion, he’s the greatest race caller that ever lived, and it’s not even close for second.”
Henson, Denman and Durkin. Now there’s three race callers who could make an $8,000 claiming event sound like a stakes race.