Behind the Mic–Guest Peter Berry

I had the good fortune to meet Peter on a couple of my visits to Mountaineer Race Track in 2006 and 2007.  He was kind enough to have me up in his booth and was a total hoot to chat with.   Peter is one of those announcers who every time I mention to a horseplayer they say they think he does a great job.  And that’s because he does! He calls the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby each year and night in, night out, brings his “A” game!  

How did you get into horse racing?

PB: All true Australians are “into” horse racing: It’s mandated at birth. My family used to own Sheep Hills racetrack and race thoroughbreds and standardbreds around Victoria.

We all remember our first call, tell me about yours?

PB: The Ouyen Pacing Cup for a local radio station when I was 14. I don’t remember much about the call but I do remember being bitten by a horse the night before.

Mountaineer Race Track under the lights

Mountaineer Race Track under the lights

What do you remember about the day you found out you got your first announcing job?

PB: I had abandoned thoughts of a racecalling career at 17 when I fluked a cadetship with Australia’s top newspaper. I didn’t entertain a return to calling until I left Daily Racing Form in 1999. Luke Kruytbosch knew I had done some calling in Australia and here at Turf Paradise, Santa Fe Downs and Atokad Park (all at the insistence of Frank Mirahmadi). He suggested I apply for the job at Arapahoe Park in 2002, so I did. I was quite excited about getting that job because of all the great microbreweries in Colorado. I thought it might just be a one-off thing. I was a bit surprised they asked me back the following year.

Some announcers have had to move a lot to pursue their dream, how many times have you had to move? Any nightmare stories from the road?

PB: I’ve called “full-time” at only three tracks – Arapahoe, SunRay Park and Mountaineer – so I’ve been pretty stable, professionally speaking. But were it not for Mountaineer’s lengthy meet, and a young family, I’d probably choose to be on the road all the time. I’d have no qualms with living out of my van.

Ever had any crazy guests in the booth during a race?

PB: Only a drunk or two who wouldn’t keep quiet or stop cheering, but we’ve all had that. I wouldn’t call them guests, more like gatecrashers.

Do you remember your worst call and what was it?

PB: The 1993 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita for an Australian radio station (Let’s Elope was in the race). I had to hold the phone in one hand and the binoculars in the other. It was pretty ordinary. Michael Wrona was standing next to me but he refused to hold the phone to my ear. Typical behaviour for a Queenslander.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

PB: Calling the races. I wish we ran 100 a day.

Tell us about your booth? Is it on the wire, big, small, good sight lines, windows etc.

PB: Narrow, about 20 yards before the finish. Poor sight lines because of the light towers. You cannot see the turn into or out of the stretch. I have monitors to my left and right and have to rely on those. I don’t like switching between the binoculars and monitors but I’m used to it after 10 years.

Most of us are bettors, what’s been your best or most memorable score?

PB: I’m not allowed to bet on the Mountaineer races and I wouldn’t if I could. It’s a gift to be able to bet and call without favoring your horse. I don’t have that gift. My biggest scores were probably Golden Pheasant in the 1991 Japan Cup (he paid 42-1 in Australia) and Boris Becker (Wimbledon, 1985) at 40-1.

Every announcer I’ve ever talked to seems to have a memory of Luke Kruytbosch, what is your favorite one?

PB: I don’t remember much at all about my get-togethers with Luke. That’s the way it was supposed to be.

Sometimes part of our jobs entails announcing random promotional events other than horse racing. What have been your strangest “announcing” assignments? (i.e. weiner dogs, rapper names, human wheelbarrow races, etc.)

PB: I’ve never had to do any of that superfluous stuff, but I’m going to start calling the deer races this year.

If in 2014, you had a “Call any race you want” card, which race would you cash it in to announce?

PB: The Little Brown Jug.

If I find myself in Chester, WV and need a good dinner and a beer, where are you sending me?

PB: Le Bon Vie at Mountaineer has excellent food and wine. For a good beer you’ll have to go Vintage Estate in Boardman, Ohio, or Fat Heads in Pittsburgh.

Thanks Peter!  

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