Saturday, May 4, 2013

Derby Day Is Bittersweet: 5th Anniversary of Death of Track Announcer Luke Kruytbosch

I love the horses.  To be more accurate, I love the track.  The horse track.  The now shuttered Hudson dog track.  Anything but a NASCAR track, which I find excruciatingly boring.  No, give me the Daily Racing Form a cold beer and a large fortune and I can turn it into a small fortune in no time (or "Hundreds into Ones" the great Keith Sykes / Jimmy Thackery tune off of Sinner Street).

Anyone that knows me has heard the story of how a group of friends and  I came within a grey mare's length of winning a pick six jackpot of over $700,000.  We were five for five having survived a maiden race and going naked in some lower class races and were sitting sweet with the three favorites in the sixth (8th race on the card).  I was literally pinching myself as  two of our favorites were in the lead as they came around the final turn only to be passed in the home a grey horse.  To add insult to injury there was no consolation for winning 5 out of 6 as in later years.  To this day I hate grey horses.

Well you can imagine how cool it was to hear from one of my old high school pals, Andy, that our fellow  high school and drinking buddy Luke was the track announcer at Hollywood Downs.  A few years later I was watching the Today Show the Friday before the Kentucky Derby and nearly fell out of my chair when I saw my old pal being interviewed.  He was now the track announcer at Churchill Downs.

I waited a while  then I started trying to figure out how to get a hold of Luke. Eventually I got a hold of his AOL email and emails led to a phone call and I had my old friend Klukenbach (Texas).  It should have come as no surprise but success had not changed Luke a bit.  He still had that self-deprecating sense of humor and was not afraid to poke fun at others, something we raised to an art form in high school.

Since Churchill closes down shortly after the derby, I was trying to talk Luke into coming up to Minnesota to watch some of the summer card at Canterbury.  Unfortunately the quality of horse racing in Minnesota had fallen off considerably since getting off to an exciting start in the 1980's.  Luke politely changed the subject by asking if I knew Paul Allen who he knew from track announcer circles.  I think Luke was a little envious of Allen in that I think secretly Luke would have liked to announce other sports like Allen has. One of Luke's funniest bits was to mock announce play by play of our friends when we did  something embarrassing.

In 2007 I got a new bike and started dropping hints with Luke that I could make a trip to come see him announce, say in early May.  It wasn't long before I got Luke's response.  He had found a photo ad from some kind of Kentucky personals craigslist site where some toothless white trash was offering "hospitality" in return for coinage.  I practically busted a rib laughing.  In early July of 2008 I emailed Luke and included a good natured ribbing about his dad, Carlos in an attempt to get a rise out of him.  Nothing.  I waited about a month and no response.  Finally in January 2009 I was speaking on the phone with an attorney in Louisville, and like I always do when I talk to a colleague in Kentucky, I bragged about knowing the track announcer at Churchill Downs.  There was a long silence and then the person at the other end said "What is your friend's name?"  "Well", I told him, "he has a really unusual last name, Kruytbosch, Luke Kruytbosch".  "I really hate to tell you this but your friend passed away last July".  He must have known we were really close.  Hey I don't get cable so how the hell would I have known that it was all over ESPN and that they even opened Churchill Downs in July for the funeral.

So today like every derby day, whether I am at the track or just in front of my t.v., I will say hi and honor my pal when the track announcer says those famous words:  "And they're off...".

P.S.  Pick a mudder. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.