(Edited press release)
Luke Kruytbosch, the announcer at Churchill Downs and the “Voice of the Kentucky Derby” since 1999, has died at age 47. His body was found Monday morning in an apartment he was renting in Evansville, Ind. No official cause of death has been announced, but published reports indicate that it appears that he died of natural causes.
Kruytbosch had just completed his announcing duties for the 52-day spring meet at Churchill Downs and had announced races during the first three days of the racing meet at Ellis Park near Henderson, Ky.
"The entire Churchill Downs family and all of racing are deeply saddened and shocked by the passing of Luke Kruytbosch,” said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs and executive vice president of Churchill Downs Incorporated. “Luke was a marvelous talent with a timeless announcing style that connected directly with fans throughout North America. He was a gregarious person who loved life and was great ambassador for racing. But Luke was never happier than when he was in the announcer’s booth – especially on the first Saturday in May for the Kentucky Derby. This is a terrible loss for our track and our sport, and Luke will be deeply missed.”
Kruytbosch joined Churchill Downs at the start of its 1999 spring meet, and his first call of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) came in the 125th renewal won by Robert and Beverly Lewis’ Charismatic. He called 10 consecutive runnings of America’s greatest race, including this year’s victory by IEAH Stable and Paul Pompa Jr.’s Big Brown.
Kruytbosch was only fifth announcer in the 134-year history of Churchill Downs to have called the Kentucky Derby for an on-track crowd. He launched his professional career as an announcer following his graduation from the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry program.
He had honed his skills by calling races at fairs in the southwest while in college, and had his first paying job as an announcer at New Mexico’s The Downs at Albuquerque. He later called races at New Mexico’s Santa Fe and Sunland Park, and in 1991 got the job of calling Quarter Horse races at Ruidoso Downs. From there, he called Thoroughbreds at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, but then got the biggest break in his career when he moved into the announcer’s booth at Hollywood Park, where he spent three years.
Kruytbosch was not married and had no children. Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of Monday afternoon.