LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Churchill Downs' new track announcer takes his place with the panoramic view on Saturday when the track's spring meet opens, but Travis Stone says he has already been cramming for his biggest assignment — calling the Kentucky Derby next month.
Stone said Thursday he has been watching race replays to become familiar with Derby contenders and has been preparing for the many possible scenarios for the crowded field of horses running in the Run for the Roses on May 2.
"I'll have probably 20 pages of notes that I'll have crammed into my mind, and hopefully when the moment comes I'll bust out a line or two from that notebook," Stone told reporters at Churchill Downs. "I don't think you can ever be overprepared for calling a race."
Stone, 30, becomes the eighth track announcer in Churchill Downs history and the second in the past two years. Stone succeeds Larry Collmus, who called Churchill races last year but then took the job as track announcer for the New York Racing Association.
Collmus will be back at Churchill in his role of calling Triple Crown races for NBC Sports.
Stone grew up a horse racing fan in New York and has been calling races since college.
He landed the track announcing job at Louisiana Downs in 2006 at age 22, a role he continued through 2013.
When Collmus left Monmouth Park to call races at Churchill in 2014, Stone took his place at the New Jersey track.
Now he succeeds Collmus for the second time in as many years.
Churchill track President Kevin Flanery called Stone "a rising star" among race callers and said he will be "a fabulous ambassador" for the track.
"It's apparent that Travis works tirelessly to hone his craft with entertaining, colorful and accurate race calls," Flanery said.
Stone traces his love of horse racing to his youth, spending summers at Saratoga Race Course. At age 12, he wrote a letter to race announcer Tom Durkin, asking how he could become a race caller. Durkin's advice included going to college.
Stone called Churchill races on two other occasions. In 2006, he participated in the "All-Star Announcer's Day" the day before the Breeders' Cup.
He spent a week at Churchill during the 2008 fall meet, in what was widely seen as tryouts for a handful of announcers who took turns at the microphone. The job ultimately went to Mark Johnson, a British announcer.
"I was very young at the time, so I figured I had a long time to go, there's plenty of opportunities down the road," Stone said Thursday.
Now Stone gets his chance as the everyday race announcer at Churchill and to call the Derby.
As for whether he's nervous leading up to the spring meet's opening day on Saturday, Stone said: "I'll let you know in a couple of days. I'm sure each passing day the anxiety will grow a little bit more."
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