Late night talk show host Conan O’Brien replaced Trevor Denman in the announcer’s booth for the second race at Santa Anita on Friday.
In a performance that would have to be categorized as “Not yet ready for prime time,” O’Brien left ‘em laughing as he put his oratorical stamp on the race, unwittingly cementing Trevor Denman’s status as Santa Anita’s race caller for generations to come.
A former writer for NBC’s Saturday Night Live, O’Brien currently hosts CONAN, which airs weeknights on TBS at 11 p.m.
“I actually called them all correctly getting into the gate, which I’m very proud of,” said O’Brien. “Once the race started, there was some confusion…And, again, I have a complaint I would like to lodge against the Los Angeles Turf Club—which is, jockeys wearing similar colors. If you’re going to have idiot celebrities come in and call a race, you can’t have two guys in all blue and two guys in all white, it’s not fair.”
Friday’s second race, run at a mile for 3-year-olds and up who were entered for a $12,500 claiming tag, was won by 8-1 longshot Knucklebuster, who bested five rivals to win by a half length under Agapito Delgadillo, who wore blue colors.
“I memorized all the colors on the sides of the horses (numbered saddle cloths),” said O’Brien. “Then, ten minutes before the race Trevor told me ‘No, that’s not how we do it. We do it by their outfits (jockey silks). So I had all these mnemonics set up for all of the horses and I had to completely forget everything. It’s like being told seconds before the SAT that it will be in German. So I was horrified…”
Denman, a South African native who has been at the Santa Anita microphone since the fall of 1983, oversaw O’Brien’s performance.
“There’s one word to describe it—‘Unique,’” said Denman of O’Brien’s maiden voyage as a race caller. “There will never be another one like this one, that’s for sure. The whole world was listening and so, hey, let’s have some fun with it. Conan seems like a fantastic guy and I really, really liked him. =He’s got no airs about him and he’s very funny.The bottom line is, we need to do things like this now and again. We need to reach out to new people, to new audiences, and have fun.”
O’Brien’s “unique” Santa Anita safari will be featured soon on an upcoming episode of CONAN.