Conan O'Brien calls claiming race

Trevor Denman looks on as late-night host Conan O'Brien fills in for a race at Santa Anita. Benoit Photo

Santa Anita Park announcer Trevor Denman called it "unique," and that's a fair description of the call late-night television host Conan O'Brien gave during the second race Friday.

O'Brien stepped in to describe the race -- a 1-mile claiming event that attracted a six-horse field -- for Denman, whose assistance wasn't very helpful, apparently.

"I memorized all the colors on the sides of the horses [numbered saddle cloths]," O'Brien said. "Then, 10 minutes before the race, Trevor told me, 'No, that's not how we do it. We do it by their outfits [jockey silks].'

"So I had all these mnemonics set up for all of the horses and I had to completely forget everything. It's like being told seconds before the SAT that it will be in German. So I was horrified."

In trouble with his call almost from the outset, O'Brien remarked over the public-address system, "All horses look alike when you're not used to being around horses."

Probably his best line, uttered for the benefit of the jockeys: "Bottoms high, boys, that's the way to go, boys, bottoms high."

A former writer for NBC's "Saturday Night Live," O'Brien currently hosts "Conan." The bit was recorded for the program, to be shown at a later time.

"I actually called them all correctly getting into the gate, which I'm very proud of," O'Brien said. "Once the race started, there was some confusion. … And, again, I have a complaint I would like to lodge against the Los Angeles Turf Club -- which is, jockeys wearing similar colors. If you're going to have idiot celebrities come in and call a race, you can't have two guys in all blue and two guys in all white; it's not fair."

The race for a $12,500 claiming tag was won by blue silk-clad 8-1 shot Knucklebuster, who wore down pacesetter Blue Collar Boy in the final furlong by a half-length. Agapito Delgadillo was the winning rider.

Denman, who has been at the Santa Anita microphone since the fall of 1983, oversaw O'Brien's performance.

"There will never be another one like this one, that's for sure," Denman said of O'Brien's maiden call. "The whole world was listening, and so, hey, let's have some fun with it. Conan seems like a fantastic guy, and I really, really liked him. He's got no airs about him and he's very funny.

"The bottom line is, we need to do things like this now and again. We need to reach out to new people, to new audiences, and have fun."

The bit was to help Santa Anita promote the 30th running of the Breeders' Cup World Championships on Nov. 1-2.