This ABC production of the 1987 Kentucky Derby features Al Michaels and Dave Johnson at the mikes….and since we have tons of Al Michael footage here at ImaSportsphile…..we’ll take this opportunity to focus some light on Dave Johnson.
As an American announcer and sportscaster….Dave Johnson is best known for his work in horse racing with ABC and NBC Sports….and at various race tracks in New York and New Jersey….with his signature line….“And down the stretch they come!” ….which is instantly recognizable throughout the sport….and has been imitated by comedians like Billy Crystal and Tim Tomerson….both found in our comedy section.
From 1972 to 1977, Johnson was the public address announcer for the tracks of the New York Racing Association….when in 1977 he moved to the new Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey….where he called both thoroughbred and harness racing….while maintaining his Meadowlands schedule into the early 21st century….and though he’s no longer the regular voice at the Big M….he continues to do special appearances in his role as senior track announcer. For ABC, Johnson called the Kentucky Derby from 1978 to 1980 and 1982 to 2000, and the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes from 1982 to 2000. Even though Johnson’s Triple Crown TV spot went to Tom Durkin when the rights shifted from ABC to NBC….Dave Johnson has continued to call the three spring classics for radio on Premiere Radio Networks and Westwood One. Johnson has also worked on horse racing telecasts for ESPN.
In 2007, Johnson missed calling the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs for the first time since 1977….when the rights shifted from Westwood One to ESPN Radio. He was replaced on the broadcast by Churchill’s public-address announcer, Luke Kruytbosch.
Johnson has also done commercials for Mobil Oil and various New York-area businesses. In 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, Johnson made voice appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman….on the day prior to the running of the Kentucky Derby….for a sound bite of his signature phrase “…and down the stretch they come!” Johnson portrayed himself as the track announcer at Belmont Park in the film Ruffian, about the famous match race in 1975 in which the filly Ruffian broke down as she raced Foolish Pleasure.
So, anyway you cut the pie….Dave Johnson deserves his place in history for the wonderful talents he brought to the live telecasts of the Triple Crown races covered by ABC and NBC….I mean….he got to work with Jim McKay and Al Michaels….for it doesn’t get any more top shelf than that….cuz we are “tickled pink” to have the many videos with Dave Johnson at the mike on major horse racing events in our Horse Racing section here at ImaSportsphile.