As he nears completion of his first year as Santa Anita's full-time announcer, the incredible Frank Mirahmadi, who also doubles as the voice of Monmouth Park in New Jersey, will be present, accountable and ready to ramble when Santa Anita's 23-day Autumn Meet opens on Friday, Sept. 27.
Growing up in Beverly Hills, Mirahmadi, who will turn 52 on Oct. 20, was introduced to racing as a small boy by his late father, who made frequent visits to Santa Anita and Hollywood Park throughout Frank's youth, infusing in him a burning desire to one day call races at a major track.
“I'm glad my dad, who passed away in 1997, knew I became an announcer,” said Mirahmadi on Monday. “And I'm so happy that my mom has visited me in the booths at Hialeah Park, the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton (CA), Monmouth Park, Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita Park.”
And it's safe to say that many thousands of racing fans are glad Mirahmadi, following a circuitous journey that has taken him to tracks throughout North America, is now firmly entrenched as the successor to legends such as Joe Hernandez, Dave Johnson and Trevor Denman.
The following are questions posed to Mirahmadi, who in addition to being a talented race caller, is a world-class impressionist, comedian and highly sought after master of ceremonies:
Q. How did you get interested in racing?
A. I became interested in racing at a very young age, attending well before I would've even known where I was at. By age eight or nine, it became my favorite sport, by far.
Q. Looking back, who are some of your favorite horses?
A. Spectacular Bid, John Henry, It's the One, Danebo, Champagne Bid, Precisionist, Best Pal, Farma Way, Del Mar Dennis, Old Trieste, Golden Pheasant, Kotashaan, Hacawind, Norbet, Track Robbery, Winning Colors, Bayakoa, Stormy But Valid Lit de Justice, Sir Beaufort and Heart of Joy.
Note: “When Stormy But Valid tackled Bayakoa over a one-turn mile at Hollywood Park in 1990, I was in Australia on a business trip and called a friend to listen to Bill Garr's call on KIEV. When I got the hotel bill, that call was eighty dollars!”
Q. Favorite jockey?
A. As a kid, it was Bill Shoemaker.
Note: “I loved The Shoe and have vivid recollections of getting his autograph a few times at Santa Anita as well as Del Mar. I was also a big fan of Chris McCarron, and then later Gary Stevens took over as my favorite jockey. He used to win so many races around the far turn. And of course, he rode three of my all-time favorites—Golden Pheasant, Winning Colors and Farma Way. We had such an incredible jockey colony, with Shoe, Laffit, McCarron, Eddie Delahoussaye, Darrel McHargue, Sandy Hawley, Patrick Valenzuela and then Stevens and Kent Desormeaux joined.”
Q. Favorite trainer?
A. D. Wayne Lukas
Note: “Watching him develop young horses made me a D. Wayne fan. What a legend. I wish I could've met Charlie Whittingham. I saw him and may have said hello for about two seconds, but never had a chance to talk to him. Ron McAnally trained Bayakoa and John Henry, and he trained for my first employer, John Brunetti (owner of Hialeah Park and Red Oak Stable). About eight or 10 years before I got the Oaklawn job in 2012, he told me one morning at Del Mar on the backstretch that he was close friends with Charles Cella, and that when their announcer Terry Wallace retired, he would get me that job. Sure enough, he put the call in for me and the day I first met Mr. Cella, he said 'Ron told me you're the best.' And that was the end of the auditions.”
Q. Favorite sports other than racing?
A. Baseball for sure. My favorite gift for me as a kid was a Johnny Bench catcher's mitt. That Reds team was phenomenal. I loved George Foster's unique, powerful swing.
Q. Favorite movies?
A. Heaven Can Wait (Warren Beatty) is my favorite. Like everyone, I loved The Godfather, One and Two. Goodfellas is an all-time classic and who wouldn't include Shawshank Redemption? More recently, the latest A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga easily made my all-time favorite list.
Q. Favorite books?
A. I have read an embarrassingly low number of books. My favorite is Betting on Myself by Steve Crist.
Q. Favorite races called?
A. Tiznow's Super Derby win in 2000. He was a man among boys. It was my first Grade I call as well as my first on ESPN. I called him “a superstar in the making” and was then concerned that it may have been an over-the-top comment. A moment later, I saw the final time and felt good about what I said as he shattered the track record at Louisiana Downs.
The 2015 Arkansas Derby, which was won by American Pharoah, was also a fun race to call. I received an email from Trevor Denman the next day as well as a simple text from Tom Durkin, “Good Call,” so it has to be one of my best calls ever.
The 2015 Malibu Stakes ranks way up there, because the feeling of calling opening day at Santa Anita is impossible to describe. Runhappy, owned by my dear friend Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, was running. He asked me who should ride the horse and of course I said Gary Stevens immediately….How could anyone write a script where I get to call my favorite jockey to ride the overwhelming favorite for the Malibu—then call the race and he wins. My voice cracked…but I'm perfectly fine with it, because it came from genuine emotion and joy.
In 2000, the late Luke Kruytbosch arranged to have me as part of All-Star Announcer's Day at Churchill Downs. It was my first visit to Churchill and I called two races. The first one went well and the second one, the last race of the day, was the highlight of my race calling career. I loaded the horses into the gate as Sean Beirne and Vic Stauffer, then called the race, in order, as Luke, John Asher, Mike Battaglia, Tom Durkin, Trevor Denman and Dave Johnson. Trevor, my idol, stuck around for the last race, then came into the booth afterward and said to me: “You're a magician, how do you do it?” I can't ever top that moment.
Q. Who's the greatest horse of all-time and why?
A. Spectacular Bid! I watched him win the Malibu. What a monster! And then, his world record performance in the 1980 Charles H. Strub Stakes at a mile and a quarter in that great race with Relaunch, Valdez and Flying Paster is a race I could watch 500 more times. Relaunch's pedigree line shows up in so many great horses, and his best moment as a racehorse may have been setting up The Bid that day.
Q. You're obviously a good listener. At what age did you discover you could impersonate people and make people laugh?
A. I started imitating things shortly after learning how to talk. By age four or five, I was imitating Tom Jones singing Delilah. I used to stand up on the coffee table and/or picnic tables and entertain my family and parents' friends. My late father used to eat toast and sip coffee in a loud manner. I imitated him once and it didn't go over too well.
Harry Henson's distinct voice was my first track announcer impression. When I called the first two races of my career at Hollywood Park on closing day, Dec. 24, 1992, it was an incredible honor on many levels, but being in that booth with Gary Henson, who was filling in for Trevor that day, was as good as it gets.
Q. If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
A. A dinner for four with my mom and brother, along with my late father. We would have a lot of laughs as well as tears, catching up on things.
Q. As a fan, what is your all-time favorite race call?
A. Trevor Denman's Preakness call at Pimlico in 1989. The epic battle between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer.
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