Santa Anita race caller’s dream job turns dark after learning of death threats

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Santa Anita track announcer Michael Wrona will pull into his parking space at the Arcadia track this weekend and wait for a few moments, much as he’s done every race day for more than a month. He’ll be looking for two plain-clothed armed security officers to escort him to his booth high above the track. He’ll reverse this exercise at the end of the day.

This unsettling reality for the affable race caller has become the norm after learning of death threats  against him shortly after he was named the permanent replacement for Trevor Denman. The threats, made on a horse racing blog, were from a fan of the former track announcer.

Santa Anita security officials contacted Arcadia police, who found the person who posted the threats.

“Based on the information we’ve been able to gather, we are comfortable that he is not a threat at this time,” Arcadia Police Lt. Roy Nakamura said. “He’s enamored with Trevor Denman and he’s upset with the fact that Trevor is no longer going to be announcing the races. He’s fixated on Trevor.”

The man, who Nakamura declined to identify, was contacted by police, but not arrested or detained.

Multiple people familiar with the incident, who did not want their names used because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the person is a local resident with a developmental social disorder. He has also been tied to a threat against New York race caller Larry Collmus, who replaced Denman as the voice of the Breeders’ Cup, according to a Santa Anita official.

Despite the conclusion of Arcadia police, the threat remains a concern at Santa Anita.

“We put extra security on Michael,” said Joe Morris, senior vice president of West Coast operations for the Stronach Group. “We’ve got pictures of [the man who made the threat] all around the track. He’s been barred from the track. We’ve got security at Michael’s car and at his booth.”

An armed security officer was placed outside the announcing booth for two weeks after the threat was made in May. That security has been removed but Wrona is instructed to always lock the booth when he is alone.

“It’s certainly unfortunate that I’ve been encumbered by this situation,” Wrona said. “It’s not been pleasant. At the same time the security people at Santa Anita have been first class in their handling of this.

“It has inhibited my ability to circulate. For example, Clocker’s Corner [where trainers, jockeys and fans gather in the morning to watch workouts] is the main example of something I couldn’t do. It will be put behind me by the next meeting.”

Denman, who in semi-retirement is scheduled to call Del Mar races starting July 15, learned about the threat in a call from Wrona.

“It’s really, really strange,” Denman said from his farm in Minnesota. “Hopefully nothing will ever come of it. And hopefully it will never happen again. But it’s still a terrible thing to have hanging over your head.

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