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Getting to Know Saratoga Race Course’s New Lead Announcer, John Imbriale

After more than four decades at NYRA, Imbriale steps into the role for Saratoga’s potentially fan-less season.

John Imbriale got his start calling races after winning a contest to do just that in New York City in 1979. (NYRA)

John Imbriale’s career with the New York Racing Association (NYRA) began more than 40 years ago when his uncle saw an advertisement in the New York Daily News for a contest that would provide the winner with the opportunity to call a race and earn a spot in NYRA’s press office. “The ad was about the size of a postage stamp,” Imbriale says. “They got down to three people who got a shot at doing it, and then there I was calling a race—July 25, 1979…third race, I believe. I started in the press office on November 5 that year. I’ve had quite a run.”

After serving in numerous roles at NYRA, including television production and hosting responsibilities, calling races and handling simulcast feeds for the three NYRA tracks, Imbriale took over as the organization’s full-time race caller in January. “It’s an honor and a great responsibility to have this job in New York,” says Imbriale, who grew up in Queens and graduated from St. John’s University. “There is a long tradition of great race callers here. To follow the likes of Larry Collmus, Tom Durkin and Marshall Cassidy is something I certainly don’t take lightly.” 

Imbriale was calling the races at Aqueduct Racetrack earlier this year when the sport was shut down in New York for more than two months because of the COVID-19 outbreak. When racing resumed at Belmont Park in early June, Imbriale was a bit jittery about his first call back. “Not only was it the first race in two-and-a-half months, but it was the first sporting event in New York since the shutdown. I’ll tell you that around 1:20pm that day, when that first race was complete, it was a big relief.”

Saratoga has always been special to Imbriale, and he is eagerly anticipating stepping up to the mic at the Spa. “Saratoga means a lot to me on many fronts,” he says. “My children grew up here in the summers. The racing is the absolute best, but it’s more than that. The town, culture, restaurants, atmosphere—it’s all part of an experience I really treasure. I’ve been coming here professionally since 1980, and even before that, I was here. I’ll never forget being in the infield in ’78 for Affirmed and Alydar [in the Travers Stakes]. A lot of great Saratoga memories. I’m looking forward to some new ones.”

Speaking of memories, what stood out to Imbriale about that first call he made 41 years ago? “Not a whole lot, actually,” he says. “It was pretty much a blur. Just glad I survived it, but it did start me on a wonderful journey.”

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