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Hay, Oats and Water: Goodbye Luke

By Sheila Williams

We said goodbye to another racing friend on Monday. Luke Kruytbosch, 47, announcer at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park for the past decade, apparently died of a heart attack–alone–in his apartment in Evansville, Indiana.

I won’t rewrite Kruytbosch’s obituary here. Instead, I marvel at the talent and passion he had for our sport. The screen on my computer makes the races appear about the size of a postage stamp. Therefore, I rely on the announcer’s voice these days to “show me the race”. I related my seeing the races he called with my ears to Trevor Denman when he visited Canterbury Park. He said, rather embarrassed, that my comment was the best compliment he ever received.

How lucky are we to have found Paul Allen. One of my future blogs this summer will regale you with how David Miller (DRF track man and my former assistant) and I spirited him away from Bay Meadows to come to the hinterlands of Minnesota.

Paul Allen is one of the top announcer’s in our industry. It amazes me that we have kept him so long. Of course, he has his Vikings gig off season, but I pray, now that there is a voiceless announcer’s mike at Churchill and Ellis Park, that we will keep Paul. Since the Sampson’s have adopted him (remember their gelding “Our Brother in the Booth”), I feel we have a good chance of keeping him for a while longer. And yet, who wants to hold back a man who can go anywhere he chooses?

My bucolic place at Canterbury Park is sitting alone on the benches near the paddock when everyone has scattered to the front of the grandstand to watch the race. I can sit there all alone and watch “with my ears.” I tip my hat to the Canterbury engineering guys for setting up a system that allows me to see the race this way.

Many of you may not realize that almost every manager’s office at Canterbury Park has a television turned on to the races (and other racetracks) throughout their workday. You learn to listen to the industry with one ear, while doing your job with the rest of your senses. Our boss, Mr. Randy Sampson, doesn’t allow it in the bookkeepers’ offices. (That’s because he was an accountant and he knows you need all your senses for figures and such.)

The track announcer not only brings on the cresendo of excitement in a race, but have the ability to create the buzz and create celebrities of horses.

When Terry Wallace guest-called at Canterbury Downs–who could ever forget his call on Nebraska’s greatest sprinter. I still remember the call. “…and it’s Who Doctor Who..Who I tell you? Who Doctor Who!”

Or Tom Durkin calling the 1989 Breeders Cup Classic; “…Easy Goer glides up to Sunday Silence…Sunday Silence finds another gear…he’s getting away!”

Or best known in racing history, Dave Johnson calling the 1973 Belmont Stakes “Secretariet is moving like a tremendous machine.” Footnote: here is a bet you can make for a beer at the Canterbury bar. It was not Chick Anderson calling for CBS that day. It was Dave Johnson.

These announcers have even influenced the names of my bitches in my German Shepherd Breeding program. Strangely, everytime I have named a girl after a filly or mare, they have become important bedrocks of the future of my kennel. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t name them things like Ruffian or Go For Wand.
I name them for the durable mares called by America’s best track announcers over and over. My “blue hen” so to speak at Lindenhill German Shepherd Dogs was named Dreamy Mimi.
I named her for this mare running in New York, simply because Marshall Cassidy said it so often, and so succinctly; “It’s Dreeemy MeeMee, in front.”###