Sunday, January 20, 2013

Richard Grunder, Track Announcer

A Tampa Bay Downs insider’s opinions, observations and reflections about their favorite sport


Richard Grunder has called Thoroughbred horse races at tracks the average fan doesn’t know exist. He was 20 when he broke into the profession in 1972 at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, roughly 17,000 furlongs from Tampa Bay Downs. He narrowed that distance early in his career, announcing at Portland Meadows in Oregon, Arapahoe Park in Colorado, Prairie Meadows in Iowa, Canterbury Park in Minnesota, several tracks in Nebraska and Waterford (now Mountaineer) in West Virginia. Now in his 29th season at Oldsmar, Grunder has made enough friends and spun enough track tales to last a lifetime. His masterful call of the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby stretch duel between Street Sense and Any Given Saturday is a YouTube classic. Grunder also hosts the track’s Morning Glory Club on Saturday mornings. He is a jockey’s agent in the summer at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, where he has helped Derek Bell win six track titles and Tanner Riggs claim the 2012 crown. The Dodge City, Kan. native and wife Diana celebrate their 39th anniversary in April. Their son Chad is a high school teacher and coach in El Dorado, Kan.


HOMETOWN: Oldsmar.


BEST HORSE I EVER WATCHED: Here at Tampa Bay Downs, Street Sense. But I was at the 1988 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on a cold, dark, rainy day – the only Breeders’ Cup I’ve been to – to see Alysheba win the Classic and Personal Ensign rally in the Distaff when she looked to have no chance. It’s an afternoon I’ll never forget.


HOW I GOT STARTED IN RACING: My dad, who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, took a leave of absence every summer and ran a small stable. I cut my teeth in first grade at La Mesa Park in New Mexico, where I ran the photo-finish pictures to the glassed-in display case.


MY BIGGEST INFLUENCE: No doubt, my father, who passed away in 1996. He was from the Greatest Generation; a tough guy who served in the Army in World War II. He told me I would be a very rich man if I was able to go to a job I liked every day.


ONE CHANGE I WOULD MAKE TO RACING: Eliminate artificial surfaces. I guess it’s being a traditionalist, but I don’t think it’s fair for stakes horses to have to switch from dirt to synthetic.


MY FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM/ATHLETE: Kansas State football and Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze. I don’t hardly know Russell, but just his steadiness every day, whether it’s the first race at Golden Gate or a major stakes, is impressive.


NO. 1 ON MY BUCKET LIST: Making my living at the racetrack. I feel pretty blessed.


FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT TAMPA BAY DOWNS: Quality racing, even playing surfaces and ownership and management who are horse people and love racing.


BEST MORNING GLORY CLUB GUEST: A three-way photo finish between a couple of Hall of Famers and friends – trainer Carl Nafzger and jockey Kent Desormeaux – and a future Hall of Famer, jockey Ramon Dominguez.


FAVORITE MOVIE/TV SHOW: The Godfather and 48 Hours Investigates on CBS.


ADVICE TO SOMEONE STARTING IN RACING: Enjoy the run, be ready to travel and remember: it beats a regular job.


  1. I remember Richard from those wet and dark days and nights at Portland Meadows in the late 1970's. Horses like Raggedy John, Dobi Pay, Sporting Event, King Hark, and Ali's Tango. "Laundauer, Lighthouse Jim, Future Fox... and THAT's The Oregon Derby...".

    It has been quite a ride, successful in no small part due to Richard sticking with his unique style.

  2. I have been a regular at Tampa Downs for years...Lucky to have a trainer friend invite me and family to the..'back side'..and always love the behind the scenes stuff..but always wondered who called..."annnnnd therrre off and running" !! love that stuff and glad to see the person who ive heard announcing.....its amazing that he can keep these horses names straight through out each race!!

  3. When did Richard do those radio commercials for thoroughbred racing? They were very funny. Anyone know how to get copies?

  4. It's a pleasure that I got to meet Roger and here him call races Book for Jocks and just be around and I must say Roger is Horse Racing at it's Finest and what a Class act he is!! Thanks Roger for being an inspiration to the young talent in all phases of Horse racing!! Hope to see you soon!! Sid D. Ragsdale!!