ready for Belmont Stakes
Saturday figures to be a hectic day for Kurt Becker
will be a part of it all.
He will serve as an analyst for the national radio broadcast that will be a joint effort this year between the Horse Racing Radio Network, NBC Sports Radio and Westwood One.
Larry Collmus, from NBC Radio, will call the race, and Kurt, who is employed by Horse Racing Radio Network, will provide expert insight and commentary for the event.
"It's exciting," Kurt
went with his
Dad as often as possible.
"I went with him to county and state fairs in the Midwest," Kurt
"As it happened, Dad was supposed to be at Coles County and Edwards County on the same night," Kurt
"I told him I'd like to give it a try and he
agreed to let me."
So on August 1, 1985, Kurt's career was officially underway as he
called the harness racing events that night.
was hooked and hungry for more.
Kurt graduated from Altamont High School in 1987 and then attended Southern Illinois University-Carbondale where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science eight years later.
Why did it take so long?
"I went to school one semester at a time," Kurt
"Then I'd drop out as announcing opportunities came up.
I fit schooling in whenever I could."
By age 19, Kurt
was hired to call perimutuel harness racing at "The Red Mile" in Lexington, Kentucky.
By January 1993, he
transitioned to parimutuel thoroughbred racing in Chicago, calling races at Arlington Park, Sportsman's Park and Hawthorne Race Course.
"I just happened to pick up a copy of the Chicago Tribune one day and read that the longtime announcer at Arlington Park was retiring after 35 years," Kurt noted.
"It also said they were accepting applications and I thought what the heck."
"In hindsight, being young, willing to work hard and not having a high salary demand all worked in my favor," he
Kurt's skills and work ethic continued to open doors.
In 1997, he
was hired to call races at Churchill Downs in Louisville; and Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.
still calls races and conducts horse auctions at Keeneland.
Along the way, the opportunity to get involved with motor racing came along.
began covering NASCAR races for the Motor Racing Network in 1994.
"The Demo Derby at the Effingham County Fair was my first exposure to motor sports and I never got over it," Kurt
, who said his
life is still based in Altamont
and owns a home there, noted the bulk of his
work is done from April through Thanksgiving.
In addition to motor sports and horse racing, he
also announces at several horse auctions during the year and at the week-long Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Sale in Scottsdale, Arizona, in late January.
But Saturday, he
will be focused on horse racing and American Pharoah's shot at becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Seattle Slew did it in 1977 and the great Secretariat won all three legs in 1973.
This will be the fourth time Kurt
has been involved with the radio broadcast of the Belmont Stakes.
has also called the Kentucky Derby, which he
refers to as the pinnacle in horse racing.
has already started preparing for the race.
spends a minimum of two hours a day looking up resources and reading articles on American Pharoah and the other horses entered.
will contact other horsemen and racing experts, trying to determine why this horse might or might not accomplish this rare feat.
will watch previous videos of American Pharoah and other Belmont races.
will also rely on the notes he
has accumulated over the past two months and his
observations from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
"I have to be as prepared as possible on Belmont day," Kurt
As for Saturday's race, Kurt
expects American Pharoah to be standing in the winner's circle.
"I just don't see a real threat," he
said the one question seems to be jockey Victor Espinoza.
"Some critics say he's
the weak link in the equation," Kurt
"I think that criticism is unfair.
comes out of the gate and rides with confidence, I think he's
good to go."
admitted it's going to be a hectic two days.
On Friday night, he
will be calling a Camping World Truck Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
probably won't even get back to his
motel room until midnight or after.
But that will not affect his
anticipation and enthusiasm for the big race day.
"Whoever wins deserves their day in the sun and we have an obligation to discuss either outcome," Kurt