South Florida’s horse racing community lost one of its most popular and colorful members as Phil Saltzman, the track announcer at Calder Race Course for parts of three decades, died at 79.
Horse fans from all over the region recognized Saltzman’s call, including “and they’re not going to get him today.”
Saltzman enjoyed visits in his booth, with many baseball luminaries visiting when in town to play the Marlins at the nearby stadium. In 1997, Florida manager Jim Leyland gifted Saltzman with a pair of tickets to Game 7 of the World Series – won by the Marlins in 11 innings over the Cleveland Indians.
“Calder runs through my veins,” Saltzman said in 2004 upon his retirement. “But at the end of this year, I estimate that I will have called over 40,000 races throughout my career. It’s a very stressful occupation and I feel that I’ve reached the point that it’s time to hang up the microphone. I’ve really enjoyed my years of being the ‘voice of Calder’.”
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According to a release put out by Gulfstream, Saltzman was a native of Brooklyn who got his taste for the horses on visits to Aqueduct on the weekends with his father Murray despite not being allowed inside because of his age.
“I was probably around 7 or 8, but I loved watching the races,” Saltzman recalled a few years back according to Gulfstream. “To hear the horses thunder at you, the riders yelling...it left an indelible mark.”
Saltzman came to South Florida in 1971 and worked calling races at Calder, Gulfstream and Hialeah while also hosting a show on WINZ-940 while handicapping races for the Miami News.
Saltzman is survived by two daughters, Nancy and Leisa, two granddaughters, Livia and Grace, and wife Linda.
A service for Saltzman will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at Levitt Weinstein at 18840 West Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach.