FLORENCE, KY (FOX19) - The long-time voice of Turfway Park is nearing the finish line.
Mike Battaglia, whose association with Turfway Park stretches back almost half a century, will step down from the announcer's booth to assume the role of associate vice president at the Northern Kentucky Thoroughbred race track.
The move is effective March 12.
Battaglia will serve as the track's ambassador, teaching the art and science of handicapping, engaging fans and helping to promote the track to horseplayers.
Turfway will celebrate the announcement with special activities on March 12th, the same day as the 34th running of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes. The race honors Mike Battaglia's father, the track's general manager in the 1970s, and is a prep race for the Spiral Stakes, the Kentucky Derby qualifier established by John Battaglia in 1972.
A nationally renowned racing analyst, Battaglia began calling races at Turfway Park in 1973. Before picking up the binoculars, he worked in publicity for the track. With his brother Bruce he also set the morning line for Turfway for 42 years, turning the task over to his son Bret in 2013.
"Turfway Park has been a constant in my life since I was 16 years old, back to the time when my dad was managing the racetrack," Battaglia said. "My son Bret is now the third generation of Battaglias to work at Turfway, so now seems like a good time to make this transition. I look forward to my new duties and am delighted to continue to be part of the Turfway Park family."
"We are excited to have Mike in this new role," said Turfway Park general manager Daniel "Chip" Bach. "His knowledge of the game is a tremendous asset for race fans, and we look forward to involving him more directly with them. Turfway has been fortunate to have Mike on our team. He garners great respect in the industry but also has deep connections to the heritage of our track."
Battaglia first called races at Miles Park near Louisville, now closed, which John Battaglia also managed.
The career move wasn't planned; it happened that when John needed an announcer to fill in at the last minute for legendary announcer Chic Anderson, Mike was available.
"The PA system is so bad they can't hear you anyway," his dad said, "and I'm not going to fire you."
"It was never the plan to be a race caller for such a long time," Mike said, "but I have enjoyed every minute of it and feel blessed to have been doing this for a fantastic 44 years. I couldn't ask for more than that."
From 1977 to 1996, Battaglia also called races at Churchill Downs. His first Kentucky Derby call came in 1978, when Affirmed claimed the first jewel on his way to the Triple Crown. Battaglia also has set the morning line for Churchill since 1974.