Michael Wrona is returning to Southern California.
After being dismissed from Santa Anita before the start of its problem-plagued meeting this year, Wrona will be the full-time announcer for quarter horses and thoroughbreds at Los Alamitos starting at the end of the year.
He will replace Ed Burgart, the legendary quarter-horse announcer who will call his last race Dec. 15 after nearly four decades as the nighttime voice of the track. Burgart was supposed to retire last year, but track owner Ed Allred persuaded him to come back on a slightly reduced schedule.
Wrona, whose call of “Racing!” at the start of every race is his signature expression, also will call the three short thoroughbred meetings as long as they are held at Los Alamitos. There have been discussions about Santa Anita acquiring at least two of those meetings, but no deal has been consummated.
Wrona, 53, got the Santa Anita job in 2016 after a very public audition came down to him and Frank Mirahmadi. Wrona was given the job, and Mirahmadi went on to call at Golden Gate and Aqueduct.
However, when Tim Ritvo, Stronach Group chief operating officer, decided to “go in another direction,” Mirahmadi was brought back.
Wrona is understandably excited to come back to Southern California.
“Our belongings have been in storage since last December,” Wrona said after calling the races at Santa Rosa on Friday. “We just weren’t sure when we would get our stuff out of storage, and now we have a sense of stability.”
Wrona is no stranger to calling quarter-horse races, having done it at Lone Star Park and even calling one this Saturday at Santa Rosa. At the end of the month, he will be calling the races at the five-day Kentucky Downs meeting.
Bobby Neuman, who has called the thoroughbred meeting and filled in for Burgart at night, was considered the front-runner for the job.
“I got a call and interviewed with Dr. Allred last Friday, and pleasantly to my surprise he offered it to me on the spot,” Wrona said. “It’s a no-brainer to be back in Southern California and be regularly employed.
“I had never met Dr. Allred, but it all came together in a few hours. It caught me by surprise, but in a lovely way.”
Wrona had recently met a few times with Burgart, who has a home in Prescott where Wrona had been calling races, but it was strictly social.
Los Alamitos currently has three short thoroughbred meets that go three to four days for two to three weeks. The nighttime quarter horse and thoroughbred meeting goes Friday through Sunday for almost the entire year.