Having succeeded a legend in one announcing booth, one of horse racing's hardest-working, and most colorful, voices is plowing new ground.
What racecaller would not like to take Saratoga off his bucket list? Frank Mirahmadi did just that Thursday, becoming only the ninth full-time announcer at the idyllic horseyard in upstate New York.
A Southern California native, Mirahmadi received a hero's welcome Thursday, opening day at the track. The 40-day stand runs through Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 4) and includes the Aug. 24 renewal of the Grade 1 $1 million Travers Stakes for 3-year-olds.
Mirahmadi replaces John Imbriale in the booth, where Tom Durkin, Dave Johnson, Chic Anderson and Marshall Cassidy once called races. Imbriale rejoins the New York Racing Association at the Belmont Park fall meeting on Long Island.
"That's what kind of guy I'm replacing at Saratoga," said Mirahmadi. "He set me up for success there in a big way, and I'm very grateful for that. It's always good when the person who is leaving the job is on your side. He told me before New York (NYRA) that he was going to retire. He wanted me to think about where I stood as far as possibly wanting to go to New York full time."
Mirahmadi called races at Oaklawn four full seasons, 2012-15, after the late Terry Wallace worked 37 years at the track. Mirahmadi took over in the Hot Springs booth after Wallace called a record 20,191 races, which the host track termed a world record.
"No one can replace Terry Wallace," he said at the time, "and I'm not going to try."
He called four runnings of the Grade 1 $1 million Arkansas Derby with 2015 winner American Pharoah becoming the sport's first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
He also called the 2012 Derby victory of Bodemeister, trainer Bob Baffert's first in the race, and the back-to-back triumphs of Todd Pletcher trainees Overanalyze and Dansa.
Mirahmadi is known as a crack impressionist but is mindful that at Saratoga, like at Oaklawn, the premium is on accuracy in the booth rather than color.
"When Saratoga calls, there's only one answer. It's actually, 'Yes and thank you,'" he told a Southern California newspaper before the meet.
He has been full-time announcer at his hometown track, Santa Anita, since 2019. Overcoming a bout with stage 3 colon cancer in 2016, he underwent emergency surgery, a follow-up procedure and chemotherapy treatment.
"Since that time, I have been incredibly fortunate to get my dream job at Santa Anita and now this opportunity," he said. "I understand what a miracle it all is. I enjoy every day. It's good to be on the right side of the soil."
He's also called races at Monmouth Park, Hialeah, Turf Paradise, Louisiana Downs, Golden Gate Fields and Aqueduct since beginning his career full time in 1996. He pinch-hit on occasion at Saratoga when Imbriale would take time off.
"Saratoga, although it's such an amazing place and venue and a big party, for the race caller it's a daunting task for 40 days of world-class racing, full fields, high expectations and a very difficult vantage point to watch the races from. It's going to be a very tough assignment, but a very fulfilling one," he said.
"Johnny didn't need that pressure anymore. He's a great man and he's become a very close friend. I know he's happy (at Belmont) and I know how much he helped me get here. I appreciate that. When people set you up for success, that's all it can be."
Besides calling the featured Grade 3 Schuylerville and nine other races Thursday, Mirahmadi was interviewed by NYRA on-screen personality Maggie Wolfendale and took a cart ride on the backstretch with FSN1 racing analyst Jonathan Finchem.