Richard Grunder still remembers his first race call at a track in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on August 4, 1973. He has had many stops since then, opening the microphone at ovals all around North America. “I called for 48 years, 37 at Tampa,” he said.
It was announced Friday that Grunder would step away from the mic when Tampa Bay Downs concludes its season May 2. For the complete Richard Grunder story including a chronological list of all of his horse racing gigs check out this story by Mike Henry on the Tampa Bay Downs website.
“It’s amazing how time gets away,” Grunder said as he reflected on calling a season at Arapahoe Park in the 1984 as though it was only yesterday. “What a beautiful place.” Other stops include Aksarben in Omaha, Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, and Portland Meadows. Grunder also called races in 1990 at what was then Canterbury Downs.
His voice is distinct. It is old school. Any fan of racing has run across a Grunder call and encountered a “Grunderism” such as ‘set down for the drive’ or perhaps ‘strictly the one to catch.’ And of course ‘good luck and good racing’ following the daily changes.
Richard Grunder knows people. He has connections. A lot of them. He is a racetracker through and through. He has been in the game for six decades in one form or another as a groom, a hot walker, race office clerk and a jockey agent. Ask Grunder how he became an agent and you often will get a version of this answer —“You only need two things to be an agent: a pencil and a condition book. They give you the condition book for free.”
He might be leaving the announcer’s booth but not the sport. Grunder remains a jockey agent and will return to Canterbury this summer to represent Alonso Quinonez and Izzy Hernandez. He has been an agent for many years guiding Derek Bell to six Canterbury riding titles and a place in the Canterbury Hall of Fame and also handled the book for Ry Eikleberry and Jareth Loveberry when they were leading riders in Shakopee.
With some free time in the winter Grunder might travel a bit. “I haven’t been to Oaklawn since 1974,” he said. “I was rubbing horses and living in a tack room. When I go back this time I will have better accommodations.”
Intel From Richard Grunder
Grunder predicts a full jockeys’ room when the Canterbury meet begins May 18. Much of last year’s colony is likely to return as well as several new faces. Lindey Wade and Ty Kennedy are expected to ride here for the first time. Several New Mexico riders are also considering Canterbury for a summer stay.
Orlando Mojica could return to Shakopee after riding in Indiana last year. Mojica is eighth in all-time earnings at Canterbury and second in all-time in the money percentage.
There is also a rumor that Eddie Martin, Jr. will be back this summer as well.
Multiple sources indicate that trainer Justin Evans will ship up from Phoenix with a full barn. He has not trained at Canterbury since 2008 when he finished second in the standings behind Mac Robertson. Evans is currently eighth in the nation in wins with 56 victories and a 32% hit rate.
As with all rumors this time of the year, you won’t know who really will be here until they pull through the stable gate but when the source is Richard Grunder, it is pretty close to a done deal.
Grunder does not fret about the depth of the rider colony. He has his connections and “two no-drama jockeys” in Quinonez and Hernandez. Grunder will arrive in Shakopee the first week of May and get to work.
Good luck and good racing, Richard.