Frank Mirahmadi, a lifelong Southern Californian, got the job he always wanted when he was named the new race caller at Santa Anita on Monday. The announcement came two days after Michael Wrona was told his contract would not be renewed.
Mirahmadi, 51, has been calling at Aqueduct in New York and Monmouth in New Jersey this year after working the previous two years at Golden Gate, like Santa Anita a Stronach Group property. He plans to call his last race at Aqueduct on Dec. 16 and will continue to call at Monmouth for most of the summer, when Santa Anita is not running.
Wrona’s dismissal caught many by surprise but Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of all Stronach tracks, said it was nothing against his work or ability but purely a business decision. Mirahmadi will become more of a front person with the customers and have a bigger profile.
“In addition to being an outstanding communicator, to know Frank is to love him,” Ritvo said. “He’s a very engaging, funny guy who brings a unique perspective to his job.… He’s a fan and I really think that’s important. He knows what our players want and he knows how to engage not only them, but newcomers as well.”
No doubt, the job will evolve over the coming months after he calls his first race Dec. 26.
“I love to be among the people,” Mirahmadi said. “Horse racing is an environment where people have a passion together. I think [Ritvo] wants me to utilize that passion to get people excited and interested in the game. The specific roles are yet to be known. But I want to get with the people, share time with the people, interact with the people and it’s something I really like to do.”
Wrona and Mirahmadi were the two main contenders when Santa Anita conducted a very public audition for the job to replace longtime announcer Trevor Denman, who left Santa Anita after the 2015 season. Denman still calls at Del Mar.
Wrona and Mirahmadi would call for a couple of three-week stretches, along with two international callers who did unimpressive week-long stints. In March 2016, Wrona was named the permanent Santa Anita announcer and Mirahmadi, who quit a good job at Oaklawn just for the opportunity to audition, took over the Golden Gate job that Wrona previously held.
Wrona mentored Mirahmadi when he was trying to get into the business, telling him to be himself rather than an imitator of other callers and sports personalities. Mirahmadi once called a race at Turf Paradise in 2009 using 23 different voices.
Mirahmadi was reared in Beverly Hills. “It’s 90212, not 90210 with all the fancy, schmancy stuff,” he likes to say. As a teenager he fell in love with the sport, which fostered an interest in race calling.
“When [Santa Anita] approached me, I was overwhelmed with the possibility,” Mirahmadi said. “Santa Anita is my favorite track in the world. I learned to call races listening to Trevor Denman sitting in the stands. Listening to him changed my entire focus. I’ve said if I had to choose between watching a race with no sound or listening to Trevor with no picture, I would choose listening to Trevor.”
Mirahmadi is currently recovering from Stage 3 colon cancer, which was diagnosed in an emergency condition when he was calling at Monmouth in late 2016. He said his scans are all clear now.