The call of this year’s Virginia Gold Cup will be done by Will O’Keefe as it has been every year the famous race has been held at Great Meadow in The Plains. In an article called “Longtime Steeplechase Announcer: ‘I Get the Best Seat in the House’” in the Cockeysville Patch, Editor Nayana Davis has this to say about the well-known Virginia horsemen and jump racing expert.
Will O’Keefe has been a fixture of the Maryland and Virginia steeplechase scene since 1980. As an announcer, he calls more than 30 races during a busy year, and as far as steeplechase is concerned, O’Keefe has seen it all.
O'Keefe's voice has long echoed over North County horse country at the Green Spring Point-to-Point, the prestigious Maryland Hunt Cup and the Maryland Grand National, which runs Saturday.
“I thoroughly enjoy it,” he said. “Steeplechase racing is very exciting. I get the best seat in the house at every meet.”
O’Keefe, the recently retired executive director of historic Morven Park in Virginia, has been around horses and horse racing his entire life. His family raised thoroughbred horses on their 600-acre farm in Bealton, VA. When he was younger, O’Keefe, 63, had even entertained the idea of becoming a jockey.
“At 140 pounds, I was too heavy for a jockey,” laughed the small-in-stature O’Keefe. “I hunted instead.”
O’Keefe announced his first race at the Casanova Hunt Point-to-Point in 1980. As the secretary of Casanova Hunt, he was charged with the responsibility of finding a new announcer to replace the one who retired in 1979. O’Keefe assigned the role to his father, but wound up having to stand behind him, whispering the plays in his ear the entire time. He then reasoned that it would just be easier if he took over as announcer.
He's been doing it ever since.
“I personally enjoy big fields of horses where I see everything,” O'Keefe said. “I have a photographic memory of the fields. I can tell people what’s going on in places they can’t see.”
One memorable experience was overseeing the six-year victory streak of a horse named Saluter at the Virginia Gold Cup. Saluter’s winning record also includes the Cup’s fastest race time at eight minutes, 27 seconds over a four-mile course in 1995.
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