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Costy Caras makes his last call

June 04, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - For 30 years, no matter how noisy it got at Charles Town Races, Costy Caras' voice rose above the clamor.

On Friday night, that memorable voice - known for its signature "Eet ees neoww POST time" - echoed for the last time across the thoroughbred track.

Caras, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, has decided to retire.

"This day had to come sometime," said Caras, who added he does not have the "vim and vigor" he once had.

As track announcer, Caras had the knack of memorizing the names of horses and the jockeys' silk colors in the post parade so he could accurately call a race.

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Caras said his annoucing style was influenced by Fred Capposella, a well-known track announcer for the defunct Jamaica Race Track in New York.

Caras' father used to run a restaurant about 15 minutes from the Jamaica track, and the young Caras would often go over to the oval and hang out with track officials.

He later worked two years as Capposella's assistant.

"I've embraced everything Cappy does. Cappy had the voice that thank God I'm blessed with," Caras said at a press conference Friday afternoon at the track.

Caras talked about the people he met and worked with four decades in the horse racing business, shared a bit of his betting expertise and recounted memorable events at the track.

Caras recalled the time a starting gate slipped off a tractor hitch and was left in the middle of the track. Caras looked up as horses were completing their first lap and noticed the gate sitting in the track.

"I started saying, 'Attention riders, attention riders, the starting gate is still on the race track,'" said Caras.

The jockeys pulled up their horses and the race was cancelled.

In another race, two riders were racing side by side when they were dislodged from their horses and ended up swapping animals, Caras said.

"There's been a lot of funny incidents," Caras said.

When calling races, Caras stretched out syllables in words in a penetrating sound that pierced through the grandstand and grounds. Fans knew the voice well, and often tried to imitate it, said Bill Bork Jr., marketing director at Charles Town.

"He had a lot of nostalgia here at the track. It's sad to see him go," Bork said.

The track will hire a new announcer, who also will be the host for the track's simulcast races, which could start as early as today.

It hardly seemed like Caras was stepping down as he called his last race Friday. As he always does, Caras stood in his glass bubble high above the track and methodically examined each horse with his binoculars. He repeated the horses' names over and over to memorize them for the race.

He demands silence in the small booth as he scans the field. Track officials ushered reporters and other visitors into the booth to watch Caras call his last race, but Caras complained there was too much noise.

"Is that door open again? I want that door closed. Now!" exclaimed Caras, who lives across the street from the track.

He called his last race, then calmly reached down and flicked the switch on his intercom.

"Finis," he said.

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