Today is the 5th anniversary of the passing of a one of my favorite people I ever met in horse racing, the great announcer Luke Kruytbosch. Luke called the Kentucky Derby as well as races at Turf Paradise, Ellis Park and about 50 other tracks during his time. The first time I met Luke was in April of 2006, as I was driving over to River Downs to begin my career announcing races. I met him in the lobby and introduced myself, told him I was going to be an announcer and instead of just saying hi and nice to meet you, he invited me up to his booth to hang out for the day. It was like a kid going to play minor league ball and getting to talk with Babe Ruth. He gave me advice, told me funny stories, said to come visit him at Churchill, and told me to make sure and meet Vince Cyster, who was a good friend of his (and subsequently became my best friend in Cincinnati). I remember hitting a superfecta for 1,100 at Turf Paradise that made my day and paid for most of my move! I figured if I never met him again, it was still pretty cool to have gotten to hang that day. Fast forward to Kentucky Oaks day, a Friday and one of the biggest days of Luke’s year. I’m announcing the races at River Downs and my phone rings. “Hey Jason this is Luke Kruytbosch.” Well Hi Luke, aren’t you a little busy today? LOL He just called to tell me he was watching the River Downs races between races at Churchill and wanted to tell me I was doing a great job. That was about as cool as it gets. Over the next couple of years we would hang out anytime I went to Churchill or Ellis, or when Luke would trek up to Cincinnati. The most interesting things I remember is often echoed by other people who knew him. He ALWAYS made you feel like the most important person in the room. I remember telling a friend that after we hung out with him at a bar, so I promise this isn’t post death hyperbole. That’s just how he was. Everyone who knew him felt that way. I haven’t met anyone in racing who was as universally beloved.
Two quick fun stories: First of all, we were sitting in a bar at Churchill Downs after the races watching the races from Hollywood Park and Luke was having a couple cocktails. One of his favorite pastimes was to do impressions of other announcers while we watched their races. The funny part was, every impression just sounded like Luke. His voice was too distinct. So he started doing an impression of Bill Downes, who announces at Beulah Park and Indiana Downs,and some stranger walks up behind us and says “Man you sound just like Luke Kruytbosch.” Luke smiled and looked at me and said “yeah i get that alot.”
My other favorite memories were during the winter time on Tuesdays. Luke’s track Turf Paradise was one of the few tracks running along with us at Portland Meadows. He would call and try and prank me and say “Hey this is Frank Stronach (who owns PM) we just wanted to say you’re doing a great job.” or my favorite one “Hey this is Flip Nollar (PM former Jockey)”. I also remember he called right after I had done a promo for our lunch special and said “Yeah how can I order that Roast Beef Sandwich.”
God he was a great guy. Pretty good announcer too :)