AFTER 25 years as the voice of Assiniboia Downs, Darren Dunn announced Thursday at a press conference to kick off the track's 56th season that there will be a new voice behind the microphone when they go to post Sunday.
Replacing him will be his understudy for the past six years, Kirt Contois.
"I have had great satisfaction for the career I have had," said Dunn. "It's a logical conclusion, and I don't look back with anything but fondness. It's been 25 years, 16,000 races, and more than 20 Manitoba Derbies, so truthfully there is nothing left for me to accomplish in the booth any more.
"My greater contribution now is down here on the ground and in the boardroom, and I look forward to that."
Dunn went on announce that while there will be a change in the announcer's booth, there will be plenty of quality returning to the track this year.
For instance, last year's leading rider, British jockey Paul Nolan is back to defend the title he captured over Jennifer Reid of Melfort, Sask., by one win last year. Reid, who won 75 races in 351 trips earned her runner up in the Jockey Club of Canada's 2012 Sovereign Award category as top apprentice jockey in Canada, is also back, and is looking to renew her rivalry with Nolan, who edged her with 76 wins in 359 rides.
Monster horse Balooga Bull has also returned. Now a four-year-old, this Ardell Sayler-trained, Kentucky-bred gelding has won nine of his 10 lifetime starts, including last year's $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby.
Regina's Shelley Brown, who in 2012 became the only woman to ever win thoroughbred trainer of the year at the Downs with 48 victories, has returned and will defend her title.
Contois is eager to begin his new career. "I believe that one of the most important aspects of the job is knowing the horses," he said. "Knowledge of the horses, and what their tendencies are. Whether they are supposed to go to the front, or whether they are supposed to race from the back of the field. Knowing that is a huge advantage, because, when the gates open, it doesn't always play to script. So knowing where horses should be and shouldn't be, helps you with the call."
Dunn said that the decision to give up announcing came as a result of having too much on his plate. Along with being the CEO, Dunn is in charge of the racing program, and "hand-in-hand" with Sharon Gulyas (vice-president of finance and gaming), he oversees the overall operations of the track from start to finish.
"I know that (Contois) will bring enthusiasm to the position," said Dunn." He knows the sport well, and he's someone who will do his absolute best. Whether it is a bottom claiming race or the Manitoba Derby you are going to hear his best effort every race.