Richard Grunder, the track announcer at Tampa Bay Downs for the past 37 years, is hanging up his binoculars after the May 2 card.
Citing health concerns, the 68-year-old has chosen to retire after a lifetime spent in the sport. He is believed to have called in the vicinity of 37,000 races at Tampa Bay Downs and is currently the longest-tenured announcer at any racetrack in the country.
“My goal a few years back was to try to go until I was 70, but I've got a medical situation I need to stay on top of and some related stress issues that led me to realize it's time,” Grunder said. “I was in the hospital a few weeks ago on a Wednesday and barely got out in time to call the first race, and I don't get up those stairs to the press box as fast as I used to.
“I am going to miss the camaraderie and the people, especially the three stewards who work next door to my booth. It's been a great environment to work in. But I have no regrets at all. My father [the late Dean Grunder, a railroad worker and owner-trainer in Nebraska and New Mexico] told me once I would be a really rich man if I was able to go to a job I liked every day.
“By that account, I'm a millionaire many times over.”
Grunder will remain active in the sport, working as a jockey's agent at Canterbury Park in Minnesota this spring and summer for Alonso Quinonez and Israel Hernandez. He plans to travel extensively with his wife of 48 years, Diana, visit other racetracks and spend more time with son Chad and his wife Erica, who live in El Dorado, Kan.
“I love to fish, and we're 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee. I've never been a bass fisherman, but that's something I plan to get into,” Grunder said. “And I'm looking forward to returning to Oaklawn Park. I haven't been there since I worked rubbing horses for [trainer] Red Payne in 1974.”