South Alabama isn’t horse racing country, but it was the retirement home for legendary Chicago announcer Phil Georgeff. Georgeff, who holds the world record for number of races called, died last week in Fairhope at the age of 85.
For decades, Georgeff called, “Here they come spinning out of the turn,” as horses hit the top of the homestretch at Thoroughbred and harness racing tracks across Chicago. By his own count, Georgeff called more than 96,000 races from 1959 until mid-December 1992.
His most historic race call was the 1981 Arlington Million (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ2ByoMBq6k0). It was the first race ever with a million-dollar purse, and 40 to 1 longshot The Bart charged for the wire with the great John Henry gaining every stride. As they hit the finish Georgeff refused to pick a winner, instead saying the race was too close to call, while the NBC TV crew not only called The Bart as the winner but posted him as the winner on screen.
Not so fast. It was John Henry who nosed out The Bart, and it was Georgeff who rightly called the race a photo finish.
Georgeff retired to Fairhope after undergoing surgery to remove throat polyps in 1991. He wrote an autobiography, “And They’re Off!” and a book on 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation.
On Tuesday, Nov. 9, the race caller at Hawthorne in Chicago paid tribute to Georgeff by calling the race in Georgeff’s style, right up to “Here they come spinning out of the turn.” He stopped, and the horses finished the race in silence.
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