Caras' calls will be missed at Charles Town

January 15, 2006|By LARRY YANOS

If Charles Town horse racing fans had it their way, track announcer Costy Caras never would have taken a vacation during his 30 plus-year tenure at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval.

Charles Town's voice of racing, Constantine L. Caras, died last Saturday at the Shenandoah Health Village Center in Charles Town at age 81.

He had a style all his own and friends and racing patrons actually would be disappointed when the colorful character was not behind the microphone.

"Where's Costy?" would be the cry.

Racing, what racing? They were there to hear Costy call the thoroughbred action and no replacement was good enough.

The word "legend" is often overused in today's sports vernacular but Costy was, indeed, one of a kind and brought national attention to Charles Town and Shehandoah Downs.


Over the years, I witnessed many a night when groans would emanate from the gathering when a fill-in would come on the air for the first time.

It wasn't that they were bad announcers, it was that a night at the races was just not the same without the legendary Caras starting the proceedings with "A good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Charles Town racetrack. This is your track announcer, Costy Caras."

A night at the racetrack was entertainment and Costy was definitely an entertainer.

From the opening bell to calling the last race, Caras was deeply involved with the action.

He was primarily known for his starting introduction and his signature "Eet ees neoww POST time" as the horses neared the starting gate.

In an earlier interview, Caras said his announcing 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 near the 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.

I knew Costy very well.

In his prime, I can remember the announcer coming to the racetrack in a sports shirt, chomping on a cigar and wearing a baseball hat of his beloved New York Yankees.

Born and raised in New York, Caras followed the Bronx Bombers from birth to death and had more opinions of their recent demise than George Steinbrenner.

His "office" high above the Charles Town grandstand was loaded with Yankees pictures and newspaper clippings and he followed the team religiously.

He often chided me about the lack of coverage of his Yankees, but I would say this (Hagerstown and Western Maryland) is Orioles' country. His reply was not to be repeated.

As many of his friends will say, Costy was "one of a kind."

He was a true professional and a true friend.

He will be missed.

Sounding off

The veteran track announcer gained many friends in his years at Charles Town Races.

"I worked with Costy for over 30 years and he was a true professional," said former racing official Frank Utterback. "He took a lot of pride in his work. He worked in the racing secretary's office in the '60s. I was the racing secretary at the time and he would take entries. He also worked as an announcer."

Following his retirement as an announcer in 1999, Caras spent many years doing the morning line for the live racing program at the Charles Town Races & Slots.

"Costy wanted to be involved, he loved Charles Town," Utterback said. "And no matter the job, he did it well right up to the days he was physically unable to do it. As an announcer, he was a master at his profession. He knew what to say and when to say it. He was the voice of the Charles Town Racetrack.

"When he said 'good evening ladies and gentlemen,' everybody woke up and was ready to roll."

"What can you say about Costy? He was a unique individual with a golden voice," said Charles Town Races & Slots vice president of public affairs Roger Ramey. "He was blessed with a good family and was one of the true racetrack characters of all time."

Joe Servis, a steward at Charles Town when Costas was announcing, said: "Costy had a great personality and worked hard to be a successful announcer. He would read the paper, study the horses and did a marvelous job. He had a sharp eye and would help others. He was a great guy, one of a kind."

Ann Hilton, longtime horse owner and racetrack historian, also worked with Caras in the Racing Secretary's office.

"I typed up the overnights and remember this new guy who came in from New York," Hilton said. "He worked hard as a racing official and eventually became the track announcer. He was well-liked and did a great job. Fans really enjoyed his announcing."

Maryland numbers up

A record-setting Preakness Stakes and a productive fall meeting helped the total wagering at Pimlico and Laurel Park as the Maryland Jockey Club announced its 2005 figures.

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