LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen July  25, 2024


There is a new man behind the microphone at Evangeline Downs. Michael Chamberlain made his debut on April 8 and will also be the "voice" for the upcoming Quarter Horse meet.

Chamberlain, 45, brings two decades of race calling experience to Louisiana. Many fans in the region should be familiar with his smooth delivery from his tenure at Sam Houston Race Park. Following his departure from Houston in 2008, he was the announcer at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona, with summer stints at Fair Meadows at Tulsa and Horsemen's Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Versatile in both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing, Chamberlain has also worked at Phoenix Greyhound Park in Phoenix, Arizona and called harness racing at Vernon Downs.

Role Model
Chamberlain was drawn to the sport of kings when he listened to Chic Anderson, the venerable caller of many of the historic races in the 60's and '70's. He vividly recalls his Triple Crown calls in 1973 and 1978.

"In my mind, Chic Anderson is still the standard by which all race callers are measured," stated Chamberlain. "I still listen to his calls from the 70s and get goose bumps. He got to call three Triple Crown winners with Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. He was simply the best."

Years later, he had the opportunity to work with Luke Kruytbosch, who was not only a mentor, but a great friend.

Race Preparation is Key
There is no manual on learning the craft of a professional horseracing announcer, so en route to memorable race calls, there have been a few notable blunders.

"All announcers make mistakes," admitted Chamberlain. "It comes with the profession. I actually messed up the finish of a stakes race at Turf Paradise; called the wrong winner and felt terrible about it. I apologized to both owners, but as bad as you feel, you just have to move on to the next one."

With Quarter Horse races rocking by in 21 seconds or less, there is no time to recover, so Chamberlain has a special pre-race preparation routine to keep him sharp in his calls of the super swift athletes.

"I color in the silks on my program a couple of hours before the program actually starts," said Chamberlain. "It gives me a chance to go over the silks in advance, which helps. Handicapping the races is also a big plus since that helps me anticipate who should start well, who might finish well, and which horses might provide an upset win at long odds."

There are some imaginative names in Quarter Horse racing, and Chamberlain admits that a few have proved to be highly challenging.

"I think that some owners just like to mess with the announcers when they name their horses," he joked. "I can recall a couple of them in Houston that I called with names like Imtoosexyformylegs or Donkey Deck. You can absolutely sure that I was VERY careful when I called those names. The slightest slip-up with those could have been very embarrassing".

Synergy with Don Stevens
Both Evangeline Downs and Delta Downs are owned by Boyd Gaming. Don Stevens, the longtime announcer at Delta Downs, has done a masterful job of interacting with fans and making the live racing experience extend beyond his race call. When the Evangeline Downs announcer position opened, Boyd management wanted to find a candidate that was both a quality race caller and had the ability to engage and attract new fans.

"Michael had a great résumé and is also passionate about the sport of horseracing," said Stevens. "He got off to a terrific start in the Thoroughbred meet and we feel that both fans and horsemen will welcome him warmly for his first Quarter Horse meet."

Chamberlain looks forward to calling races for many of the horsemen he knew well from his days at Sam Houston Race Park.

"The Kenny Roberts runners were always prominent in Houston," recalled Chamberlain. "I was fortunate to be able to call pretty much every race that Azoom won, including his victory in the 2004 Sam Houston Futurity. That was a breakout year for trainer Frank Cavazos and I am looking forward to seeing his undefeated filly, Jessa Louisiana Zoom in trials for the LQHBA Breeders Futurity."

Tony Patterson, executive director of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association (LQHBA), has known Chamberlain for close to 20 years.

"I am sure that there were many announcers interested in the position at Evangeline Downs," said Patterson. "But, in my opinion, they made an excellent choice in Michael. He combines his experience as a race caller with his enthusiasm for our sport. We are extremely lucky to have both Don Stevens and Michael Chamberlain on the Louisiana circuit."

Sports Fan
Chamberlain is a bonafide sports lover, and follows the Nashville Predators in the NHL and is a ardent supporter of the San Diego Chargers in the NFL. His personal sport of choice is golf; he has a 10 handicap and he has already found some good courses near Opelousas.

Just Tied the Knot
Labor Day weekend was very special for Chamberlain as he married Sarah Rizzo in the presence of family and friends in Phoenix, Arizona. The couple resides in Lafayette, Louisiana and have enjoyed house hunting in their spare time.

He is very pleased to reside in Louisiana and looks forward to both his announcer duties and promoting Louisiana Quarter Horse racing for the 46-day meet at Evangeline Downs.

"I am thrilled to be the voice of Evangeline Downs," states Chamberlain. "Everyone has been fantastic in welcoming me and I am looking forward to calling my first million-dollar race on November 28."

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.