Chris Griffin ‘Humbled’ By Opportunity As New Voice Of Pennsylvania Derby Day

When Keith Jones retired last December, he wrapped up a career that spanned 34 years as a track announcer. His voice became synonymous with racing at Parx after calling over 60,000 races and 32 Pennsylvania Derbies since his first day in the booth at what was then Philadelphia Park in 1987.

Saturday, Chris Griffin will call his first Pennsylvania Derby as the new voice of Parx Racing. He was hired on March 24.

“Trying to replace a legend like Keith Jones and coming here, it’s been a seven-year ride for me,” Griffin said. “I have to pinch myself a little bit because I take a look at the rundown of the fields and these are serious racehorses that we have. It takes a lot of memorizing and a lot of studying, and just trying to stay relaxed. With two one-million-dollar races, it’s just exciting, and it’s a good time to be here.”

“Keith Jones is still texting me and giving me a shout,” he said. “He’s like, “are you excited? Are you nervous?” I’m pretty much like all of that Keith. You try to relax the best you can. It’s going to feel like a different day no matter what, but were excited. Its big racing, big horses with 13 races on the card. You look at a race like this (Pennsylvania Derby), and these are the best horses in the country, and to be here for these races I’m humbled by it because I get to call the action,” added Griffin.

As a fresh face among those who ply their trade announcing races from atop racetracks in what is considered one of the toughest jobs in racing, the Santa Monica, Calif. native’s journey to the booth began far west of Bensalem, Penn.

“I started out at the Humboldt County Fair and got an opportunity there to call races after my stint being the voice of the Harlem Globetrotters,” said Griffin. “Sam Houston was a great experience for me to try and catch some Grade 3 races and try to build up the resume a little bit. Then when this opportunity came up, I got lucky. I popped in and here we are.”

Saturday will be the biggest day of racing at this point in Griffin’s young career. The work and preparation that announcers put into a long, stakes filled day can vary depending on the experience as well as the certain challenges that can arise.

“I don’t try and change the mechanics too much,” Griffin said. “I think if you start thinking about it a little too much you kind of psyche yourself out a little bit. I looked at the fields, and the two-year-old races are a little tougher because there’s first time starters, and you don’t really know them.”

“There are silks that I’m familiar with from the local connections, and that’ll help me color in the program. I like to color in the program the night before the big race. You pretty much know now who’s in what post position and who is where, but the only thing I can’t prepare for is what happens during a race. The unexpected can always happen. You have to be prepared for it, but you can’t prepare for it … if that makes sense.”

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Griffin went on to say, “We haven’t run a ton of mile and an eighth (Pennsylvania Derby distance) races on the main track since I’ve been here so that will be a little bit different. We definitely didn’t have a mile and a half here like the Greenwood Cup, so some of the distances will be a little bit different, but other than that I treat it as another racing day here at Parx. We have a tremendous TV crew and staff and everybody is working hard to put things in place. At that point I want to be done by 9 am on Saturday morning and just jump in the booth and be like alright here we go.”

Racing can be a small world at times, and on Saturday, Griffin and Trainer Doug O’Neill, who will saddle 8-5 morning-line favorite Hot Rod Charlie in the Pennsylvania Derby, share a common bond which began 2,735 miles from Bensalem.

“It’s so funny, Doug and I go way back,” said Griffin. “I was probably in my twenties running around and somebody told me that Doug O’Neill went to St. Monica’s. I said, ‘I went to St. Monica’s,’ which is a high school in Santa Monica, a private school, maybe six-hundred students or something like that.

“Doug had gone there before me. I went and tapped him on the shoulder, and was like, ‘hey Doug O’Neill, I heard you went to St. Monica’s, I’m Chris Griffin, I went there.’ He was like ‘Oh I know you. You were the quarterback with the championship football team.’ It was the 1998 season. I graduated in 1999. We won our (California Interscholastic Federation) football championship. He knew all about it.

“Ever since then, we’ve been connected and when we see each other we say, ‘Oh yeah, what’s going on with St. Monica’s?” said Griffin. “It’s just one of those things. We’re connected in a weird way for life. It’s a cool little back story. It’s nice to see him and hang out with him. It’s fun to see Doug here on site.”

The post Chris Griffin ‘Humbled’ By Opportunity As New Voice Of Pennsylvania Derby Day appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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