Editors Note: We’re wrapping up the 23rd year of The Special with some moments from the meet. You can find the complete editions from 2023 here.
New Voice: Veteran race-caller Frank Mirahmadi takes spot as Saratoga announcer. By Tom Law. July 13 edition.
Frank Mirahmadi gets Saratoga. He’s made the pilgrimage to the upstate New York racing oasis enough times to count on his fingers and toes – give or take – and knows what it means to fans and the game.
“Saratoga is a place you can actually come to the races, sit near the paddock, never go out to watch a race and have a great day. You can watch the races on the TVs and still have an awesome time,” Mirahmadi said. “Saratoga is that great. It’s also a place where one gets to see people that you might get to see once a year. It’s an event. Every day is an event.”
Mirahmadi takes his place in the event today on his first day on the mic as Saratoga Race Course’s full-time announcer. The 55-year-old Californian who grew up near Santa Anita Park and that track’s current announcer, takes his spot in the booth after John Imbriale handled the announcer’s role the last three seasons, following Larry Collmus and one of Mirahmadi’s idols, Tom Durkin.
Mirahmadi won’t be a first-time visitor to the booth, however, having called races at Saratoga on five other occasions, including two last season. He’s excited for the role, and fully understands its challenges and responsibilities.
“I look at the track announcer’s job is to celebrate winners. Period,” Mirahmadi said. “No matter what level of racing you’re calling, it’s important to keep in mind, especially at the end of the race because it’s a celebration. I take pride in celebrating appropriately. I’ve done that my whole career.
“Obviously this is a very high level. I feel a great responsibility to deliver for the fans, for the owners, for the connections, for the breeders. My job every day is to celebrate. Of course, accuracy first, then celebration and I think it’s important also to not try and overdo it. What can be done has been done in race calling.”
Mirahmadi’s past stints as a fill-in announcer at Saratoga came during weekday cards, and he’s also enthused to delve into the big Saturday programs that feature such marquee events as the Whitney, Alabama and Travers.
Durkin presided over all of those events as NYRA’s lead announcer from 1990 until his retirement on the penultimate day of the 2014 Saratoga meet. Mirahmadi has called races at Hollywood Park, Monmouth Park, Oaklawn Park and several other tracks dating back toward the start of his career at places like Hialeah, Great Barrington and Turf Paradise.
“I’m never going to be the best announcer in Saratoga history. It’s not happening,” Mirahmadi said. “That list is a big list, and I’m fine with that, you know what I mean? I’m not putting myself down, I’m very proud of what I do. But you’ve had Tom Durkin in the house. He’s an absolute icon. … I’ve actually been listening to old races from Tom for cadence, for things to learn from. I like to see what the fans like. I’m not going to mimic anybody but I’m here to understand and to learn.”
Mirahmadi’s first trip to Saratoga came in 1997. He also attended the 1998 Travers Stakes, which featured the blanket finish by Coronado’s Quest, Victory Gallop and Behrens. He made the trip that year from Great Barrington, borrowing veteran racing official Sam Abbey’s truck for the 90-minute journey from western Massachusetts to Saratoga.
Mirahmadi didn’t make the trip back until 2017 and that sojourn provided Mirahmadi with his own bit of Saratoga magic.
“I met my girlfriend Jennifer (Latzo) that year and we’ve been together ever since,” Mirahmadi said. “She had followed me on Twitter and had made a couple nice comments. She’s a Monmouth person, a Jersey girl. And she had this distinct purple stripe in her hair. I was like ‘I’m going to find this girl. She’s kind of cute.’ ”
Working as the announcer at Monmouth at the time, Mirahmadi admits he never saw Latzo at the Jersey Shore. But she saw him.
“She said she saw me but said I always looked too serious to come up and say hello to,” Mirahmadi said. “I’m the furthest thing from serious.
“So how about this, I pull up in the parking lot to work on the Saratoga Live show. I look at Twitter and she had just tweeted how great Saratoga is with a picture of the trees. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to find this girl today.’ Of course, I’d forgotten how big that area was, took a little look and said, ‘forget it.’
Standing in the area by the jockeys’ room and communications offices, Mirahmadi eventually didn’t need to look anymore. Latzo, who later became NYRA’s senior manager of sponsorship, walked right up and stuck out her hand.
“I know you,” she said.
“We shook hands, started talking about baseball. She’s a big baseball fan. And we talked about Saratoga. And we’ve been together ever since.”