By Callie Caplan
When Larry Collmus was a high school student at Mount St. Joseph in the 1980s, he practiced calling horse races in the cafeteria. His classmates would give him a copy of The Baltimore Sun, and he would make up calls based on the printed results from the previous day.
The Baltimore native got his start calling horse races as an announcer at the Bowie Race Track, and 30 years and one day after his first call in 1985, Collmus became the voice behind American Pharoah's Triple Crown-sealing victory at the Belmont Stakes June 6.
"Being a part of that scene, even though I was six stories up in a glass-enclosed booth, it was just raucous, and you could hear the crowd going absolutely crazy," Collmus said June 8 on Glenn Clark Radio. "And it was a wall of sound from the time the horses got to the gate to at least 10 minutes after the race. It just never stopped, and it was the coolest thing ever."
Before Collmus could take part in celebrating the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, however, he prepared to deliver his take on the longer distance race in a calm, concise manner.
Before the event, he talked with his two NBC analysts, Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss, to get an idea of what to potentially expect for the call.
On the day of the race, he took deep breaths as the horses approached the starting gate. And for nearly the entire first mile of the mile-and-a-half race, he tried to give a "very descriptive, not over the top call" to keep the spotlight on the moment, not himself.
"You better believe I was nervous," Collmus said. "It's a moment that no one has seen in 37 years, and you don't want to screw it up. You want to be able to get it right."
Collmus already had experience calling Triple Crown hopefuls, though. He broadcasted the Belmont in 2014, when California Chrome finished fourth in his bid for the trifecta.
Still, Collmus didn't rely on past calls during this year's Belmont. He had written down notes on what to say, and although he didn't use them during the moment, his call mirrored his pre-race ideas.
"I had thought of, 'The 37-year wait is over. American Pharoah is finally the one. American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown,'… like a million times," Collmus said. "I just was able to do it without looking at the sheet in front of me and reading it. … I just wanted to be able to deliver it the right way."
Collmus hopes the excitement generated from American Pharoah's win and the end of the Triple Crown drought will increase people's interest in the sport of horse racing.
"It is definitely going to be something that will keep us in the spotlight for a while, and hopefully will create fans that just had a passing interest that may, in fact, get into the game more," Collmus said.
But whether the sport's popularity does benefit from American Pharoah's feat, Collmus' call will always be associated with the historic moment in Belmont Park.
"When the horses start running, that's my element," Collmus said. "I haven't come back off that high yet."