Arizona Downs has hired Michael Wrona to be its track announcer for its inaugural Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet, which opens May 24.
A native of Australia, Wrona, 53, has called races at American tracks from coast to coast, as well as overseas. Most recently, he served as track announcer at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.
“In this year of exploring fresh opportunities, it seems fitting to become associated with a brand-new project,” Wrona said. “The racing industry is contracting in so many ways, so everybody should be supportive of a new track. There's an air of anticipation and excitement surrounding Arizona Downs, and I'm looking forward to helping launch this new venture.”
Wrona is familiar with Arizona racing, as he served as announcer at Turf Paradise in Phoenix for its 1999-2000 season.
“This will be a chance to experience a different part of Arizona, a much-more comfortable part of Arizona in the summer months,” he said. “I've only driven through there once or twice in one of my many treks across the country, but I'm quite looking forward to spending some time there.”
Wrona has earned a reputation as one of the sport's most colorful and entertaining announcers, weaving humor into precise calls. His simple proclamation of “Racing!” as the horses spring from the gate is among the best-known race-call signatures in the sport.
“I am thrilled that Michael is joining our team,” said Arizona Downs general manager Ann McGovern. "He is an incredible talent, and we are fortunate that his voice will be associated with the opening of Arizona Downs.
"Our goal is to grow Arizona racing and Michael's race calling will be an important factor in reaching that goal," she added. "Michael brings instant credibility to those familiar with racing and his style resonates with newcomers to the sport. And to top off our good fortune, Michael's wife, Kathy, is an experienced mutuel teller and will also be joining our team.”
Wrona called the races for two years at Santa Anita when the iconic Trevor Denman left out of a desire to cut back on his work schedule. Wrona's tenure ended when new management put its own people into some key positions for the 2019 winter-spring meet.
Wrona already had been announced as the new race-caller at Kentucky Downs' five-date, all-turf meet. McGovern said that Arizona Downs will have a guest announcer for the closing Labor Day weekend, with Wrona committed to Kentucky Downs' August 31 opener.
“I have just such a positive vibe from Ann from the first moment we spoke,” he said. “I'm very appreciative of Arizona Downs being willing to release me from their closing weekend so that I can fulfill my obligation to Kentucky Downs.”
Wrona started calling races in 1983 at age 17 at Kilcoy Racecourse, near his hometown of Brisbane, Australia, and he continued to call thoroughbred, harness and greyhound races around Brisbane until coming to America in 1990, serving as Hollywood Park's announcer for the balance of the Los Angeles track's season.
Wrona's extensive resume also includes serving as announcer at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, Arlington Park near Chicago, Retama Park and Lone Star Park in Texas, and Fair Grounds Racecourse in New Orleans.
“It's been a very interesting adventure,” he said. “I've been in America longer than Australia now, and it just continues to throw out surprise after surprise.”
Arizona Downs' upcoming meet will be the first live racing in the Prescott area since the track, then known as Yavapai Downs, shut down in 2010. J & J Equine Enterprises, an affiliate of the Phoenix-based retail investment and development company JACOR Partners, acquired the old Yavapai Downs property in 2017 and renamed the track Arizona Downs.
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