A special race

While he tries to bring his passion for the sport and for accuracy to every race he calls — three dozen races per week during the season — Rodman concedes that the Preakness, the middle race in horse racing's Triple Crown, is special.

"It's the neatest experience — the entire week — that I've been through in racing," he said. "The Derby winner's going to run in one place to win the Triple Crown, and that's the Preakness. So all eyes are here to watch that race.

"It's a great party week, but it's also a very important race on the national racing scene."

More than a week before the big race, Rodman was already deep in his preparations. He'd watched this year's Kentucky Derby "over and over" and studied video of the horses that will run in the Preakness but didn't run in the Derby.

"I've been following each horse, knowing running styles and most importantly, knowing the silks. I can tell you [Derby winner] California Chrome's silks: purple and green."

By Preakness Day, Rodman will know which horses are fast out of the gate, which ones are the strongest finishers. He'll have an idea how the race is likely to be run.

He'll also know, from experience, just how wild the scene below him will be.

"On a normal day, I have a clear view" of the infield and the entire race. "But Preakness Day, there'll be people in the infield, different colors everywhere. There's cooking going. …

"And the noise level, the electricity of the crowd. When you say 'The horses have reached the starting gate,' the crowd goes wild. You can feel the electricity kind of rise through the air."

The noise level rises during the race, he said, and by the finish, "It's like being there at the last moment of the Super Bowl when somebody kicks a field goal or gets an interception."

Rodman said he has to work hard to convey all that excitement of the Preakness without getting carried away and blowing the call.

"I have to keep calm no matter what happens," he explained. "That's the big challenge of it, versus just calling an everyday race. There's no rewind button on the call, for me.

"You're obviously going to be a little more up and enthusiastic, have a little more adrenaline flowing to make the call because you know it's very important. I just try to not stumble over any words. 

"I'll see how it works," he said. "So far, in 23 years, it's gone OK."