St. John’s University alum John Imbriale takes on role of NYRA announcer

St. John's University alum John Imbriale returned to Belmont Park to call horse races for the New York Racing Association (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
St. John's University alum John Imbriale returned to Belmont Park to call horse races for the New York Racing Association (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

St. John’s University alum John Imbriale took center stage on Wednesday afternoon at Belmont Park as the voice of the New York Racing Association.

It had been 80 days since live sports took place in the state of New York and that streak came to a halt on Wednesday afternoon at Belmont Park.

While many assume the canceled at halftime Big East Tournament Quarterfinal between St. John’s and Creighton was the last sporting event to take place in New York, it was actually horse racing at Aqueduct Racetrack on March 15.

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Horse racing returned to the Big Apple, without spectators, as the state looks to continue to heal and recover from the lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, with all the anticipation of the starting gate opening for the first race, the announcer booth had a new face in it, John Imbriale.

Imbriale, a St. John’s University Class of 1980 graduate, took the place of former announcer Larry Collumus back in January and the new voice of the New York Racing Association was set to begin his new role at the start of the Belmont meet in early April.

Clearly that was changed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Imbriale stepped up to the microphone seamlessly as he welcomed sports, and racing, back to New York as the stalls opened at the first post and again when Star of the West crossed the wire.

John Imbriale has spent virtually his entire life with the New York Racing Association, starting in 1979 after winning a newspaper contest.

In his 40 years at NYRA, Imbriale has been the backup announcer to the legendary Tom Durkin, who Collmus replaced, in addition to working in the press offices and on other NYRA-based television shows.

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Collmus, who made his name known calling the last two Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah and Justify, will transition to being the track announcer at Kentucky Downs while keeping his position calling the top-tier races for NBC Sports.

Imbriale also had another sentimental call on the afternoon when Strongerthanuknow separated from the rest of the pack down the stretch in the fifth race at Belmont, for the fist win of the filly’s career, and she was the first New York bread to win a race on Opening Day.

John Imbriale, a Queens, New York native, graduated St. John’s with a Bachelor of Science degree from the then College of Business Administration.

While only the essential trackside workers can hear Imbriale’s calls live at Belmont Park, millions at home have the chance to hear the St. John’s graduate on various FOX Sports affiliates across the country.

As the full time NYRA announcer, Imbriale will be on the call at Belmont Park for the entire 25-day meet, highlighted by the Belmont Stakes on June 20, which races Wednesday through Sunday.

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Adjusting to the new horse racing schedule COVID-19 forced, the Belmont Stakes will be the first leg of the Triple Crown for the first time ever, and it will also be the first time the race will be run at 1 and 1/8 miles instead of its grueling 1 and 1/2 mile.

The spring meet at Belmont will race until July 12 before John Imbriale and the rest of the NYRA operations moves to the historic Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York for the summer meet, which is scheduled to begin on July 16.