Announcer reflects on career leading up to big day at Keeneland | Kurt Becker has been KeenelandÃ¢Â€Â™s announcer and was inspired after listening to Tom Durkin who called the first BreedersÃ¢Â€Â™ Cup race. PHOTO BY MICHAEL REAVES I STAFF
Kurt Becker has been Keeneland's announcer and was inspired after listening to Tom Durkin who called the first Breeders' Cup race. PHOTO BY MICHAEL REAVES I STAFF
Kurt Becker has been Keeneland's announcer and was inspired after listening to Tom Durkin who called the first Breeders' Cup race.
On a chilly, drizzly day in November of 1988, 19-year-old Kurt Becker
sat in his
parent's barn-style living room watching the Breeders' Cup races.
Coming from a family in the Standardbred business, his
parents were puzzled by Becker's interest in thoroughbred racing but never discouraged it.
watched, eyes glued to the television as Alysheba took over the field with Tom Durkin's voice announcing, "Alysheba wins the world's richest horse race and he's now the richest horse!"
announcing career alongside his
father who was also an announcer for races at county fairs in his
home state of Illinois.
In the summer of 1985, 16-year-old Becker
first race at a county fair that his
dad was supposed to call.
father was scheduled to announce two county fairs on the same day so he
son to the second county fair to work in his
"Even though I was young, I was confident I could do the job and part of the confidence stemmed from the fact that I remember there were short fields scheduled for the races that particular day," Becker
After the day was done, his
parents were impressed at his
natural ability to call races and encouraged him to pursue announcing as a career.
Becker had a different opinion and wanted to become a political commentator and live in Washington, D.C.
After receiving a political science degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Becker began more actively pursuing careers in announcing.
"I must say as I stand here now at age 46, I'm grateful that my dad pushed me outside my comfort zone," Becker
had not challenged me in the way he
did, I don't think I would have the career I've got today."
started off at Red Mile in Lexington from 1988 until 1992 as an announcer.
He later began his job in 1994 as a play-by-play announcer and anchor for Motor Racing Network's radio coverage for the top three touring division of NASCAR, covering the Sprint Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Camping World Truck Series, and is still involved with MRN today.
But Becker's big break in thoroughbred racing came when he
heard news that Keeneland
was looking for a track announcer.
After 60 years without a track announcer, Keeneland
decided it was time to keep up with the times.
But they didn't want an announcer from another racetrack; Keeneland
wanted their very own announcer to have their own sound.
Becker was hired in April of 1997, becoming Keeneland's first track announcer.
did announce for Churchill Downs from 1997 until 1998, his
schedule at Keeneland
allowed him to maintain his
job with MRN and gave him more leeway to juggle both jobs.
Kurt Becker prepares for calling a race at Keeneland.
"The experience at Churchill was fantastic, that will be something I will always be grateful having and to say I was the track announcer there," Becker
After two years working for Keeneland
was able to expand his
role and work the sales.
The prospect of spending more time with Keeneland
allowed him the chance to also get more involved with NASCAR
"It was really a case of me wanting to diversify my schedule," Becker
There is no other," Becker
As a man who loves his
describes announcing as "painting a picture" for the audience; always inspired by good sportscasters and good announcers who can paint that picture for the audience who is unable to visually see the race.
"Here at Keeneland, for example, for the caretaker who might be working and doesn't have time to walk up to the fence and watch the race, I want that person to have a picture of exactly how that race is unfolding," said Becker of NASCAR.
"The listening audience doesn't have a visual reference and I like being able to paint the picture.
Whether it's describing the colors of the cars, whether it's painting a picture of what the surrounding countryside or the speedway looks like, whatever it might be, that to me is a challenge and a thrill to be in that position to bring that type of information to the public and to enhance their experience."
is looking forward to announcing the play-by-play of this year's Breeders' Cup.
"I love the fact that every horse in these Breeders' Cup races has a legitimate shot to win," Becker
"It's exciting to me to have a chance to describe horses that may be 20 to 1 on Breeders' Cup day that any other day of the year they would probably be an even money or an 8 to 5 favorite."
Becker believes that any good announcer enjoys a good challenge, and he believes that his next challenge in announcing will be during the Breeders' Cup to remember to call every horse in the field.
Because all of the horses in the field are high level horses, he
has to stay on his
toes and watch for any horse that may come up and take the race.
"You have to put the odds out of your mind and realize every single horse has a shot to win," Becker
"As a result, you truly don't know from race to race where the winner is going to come from.
That's the thrill and the challenge of it."
In preparation for the Breeders' Cup, Becker plans to spend a lot of time in the barns as well as watching morning workouts.
"I am a firm believer that things are less intimidating as they become more familiar," Becker
said, "Lack of familiarity breeds intimidation, at least for me as a race announcer.