Whatever kind of work you do, wouldn't it be cool to hear people say you were "Arguably the best of all time; certainly the best in the last few decades"?
That kind of high praise is like low-hanging fruit when people in the horse racing world start talking about track announcer Trevor Denman, one of the newest of the 450 residents of Kellogg, Minnesota.
The Los Angeles Times (whose writer made the assessment quoted above) says Denman stunned the racing world when he retired in December from his job at Santa Anita, the L.A. track where he'd been calling races for 33 years.
It was only a semi-retirement for the 63 year old, though. After more than seven months relaxing in Kellogg, Denman returned to California this week and he'll call the summer season at Del Mar in San Diego beginning Friday, the Times reports.
He prefers the drive from Kellogg to Wabasha
Denman says his decision to step back from the microphone was based on quality of life. He told the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club southern California traffic was getting to him and shared a story about what it's like in his adopted home in southeastern Minnesota.
Denman told the interviewer that when he drives the seven miles to Wabasha to stock up on supplies, he plays an over/under game as he counts how many other vehicles he sees on the trip. He says he's been using four as his benchmark, but might have to lower that to three because the under keeps winning.
Denman, whose wife is a Minneapolis native, told the Times he considers himself a gentleman farmer because he doesn't actually get his hands dirty at his homestead near Kellogg. While no crops are planted on the 500 acres, there are some animals: Denman rents some of his land to a neighbor who has about 40 dairy cows grazing there.
The folks at Del Mar remembered that Denman, a native of South Africa, explained his semi-retirement by saying it was time to stop counting dollars and start counting stars. When asked about those stars, he said:
“I know living in L.A. if you looked up you were lucky to see any stars. But here on most any night you can see a billion of them – and that’s billion with a B. Then to take a set of binoculars and look up, you can see a hundred billion. It is simply spectacular.”
Why is Denman a big deal?
The Daily Racing Form – after calling Denman a legendary announcer who revolutionized race commentary in the U.S. – said he is "...one of the most popular announcers in the world for his approach of not only describing the position of the runners but adding in-race commentary, often about whether a horse was running poorly or, in one of his most familiar phrases, was “moving like a winner.”
The president and CEO of Del Mar, Joe Harper, told the L.A. Times: “He’s brought race calling to a whole new height. Trevor doesn’t tell you just where they are, but what they are doing and building suspense as a race goes along. I think he’s even surprised some jockeys.”
When the Los Angeles Daily News asked him about his most memorable race call, Denman named the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita, where a horse named Zenyatta was the favorite.
Here it is: