By Ray Wallin
The thoroughbred racing community lost one of its greatest and most distinctive voices with the recent passing of race-caller Marshall Cassidy at the age of 75.
Cassidy wore many hats during his stellar career: racing official for the State of New York; sportscaster for major television stations; patrol and placing judge for NYRA; and alternate steward. Of course, he will best be remembered for this distinguishable voice and style of calling the races.
Cassidy spent 18 years calling races for the New York Racing Association, serving as back-up to Dave Johnson and Chic Anderson. After Anderson passed away, Cassidy took over in 1979. For the next 11 years, Cassidy was the voice of NYRA until he was replaced by Tom Durkin in 1990.
Every race-caller leaves their mark on the races they call. We have heard Larry Collmus’ wry humor with his infamous “The Wife Doesn’t Know-My Wife Knows Everything” race. In California, you knew it was Trevor Denman with his signature “away they go.”
Yet Cassidy will be best remembered for his accuracy and eloquence while calling a race. Durkin once remarked that “Marshall had a voice that belonged in the Hall of Fame. He had a resonant baritone, and his timbre was perfect.”
He’d often pause between syllables which left you with a crisp and well pronounced race call. He started with a simple “They’re off,” and would describe the horse that was looking like the winner as “in front,” as it approached the wire.
5 of Marshall Cassidy’s Memorable Calls:
#1 – 1989 Belmont Stakes – Easy Goer
This is arguably the best race call of Cassidy’s career. You have great points of inflection with his flawless delivery at the pace of an auctioneer to start the race. As Easy Goer starts to draw clear his voice drops for the “Sunday Silence remains in second,” right before “It’s Newwww York’s Eeeeeeeeasy Goer, in front!” [Sunday Silence had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and was trying to win the Triple Crown in the Belmont].
#2 – 1981 Travers – Pleasant Colony vs. Willow Hour
In one of Cassidy’s more animated race calls, you can hear the classic perfect diction as he gets excited during a hard-fought stretch drive. As they hit the top of the stretch you can hear Cassidy’s voice emphatically and deliberately state that “Noble Nashua. Has. Moved. Into. Third.”
#3 – 1979 Belmont Stakes – Coastal On The Inside
They were blazing away on the backstretch this day. You can hear Cassidy’s drop in voice when announcing race positions between horses. Cassidy kept his composure pretty well in this call, but you could hear his excitement as Coastal passes Spectacular Bid in the stretch [and end Bid’s Triple Crown try].
#4 –1984 Whitney Handicap – Slew o’Gold
Hearing Cassidy call a tight stretch drive is like hearing a symphony. He timed his words perfectly with his contained enthusiasm. Note that during the stretch you hear that trademark “eeeasy” that he would use almost every time he called Easy Goer in a race a few years later when he exclaims an “eeeeasy victory for Slew o’Gold!”
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<h3 style="text-align: justify;"><strong>#5 – 2008 Loudonville Stakes (Saratoga) – Marshall’s Finale</strong></h3>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Having been replaced by Tom Durkin in 1990, this race would be Cassidy’s last race call. It sounds like it could have been his first with his classic change of inflection at the top of the stretch and staccato delivery of the horses positions in the field.</p>
Many of his race calls are lost to time given the state of technology during the period he was the voice of NYRA. Those of us that grew up hearing him, though, will always remember his flawless, straight forward style of delivery. The horse racing community may have lost a legend, but the memories of his great calls will live on and we’ll always think of Cassidy as “in front.”