Harris Returns As Emerald Downs Begins 29th Season


When Emerald Downs begins its 2024 season on Saturday, May 4, a familiar voice returns to the announcer’s booth high atop the grandstand.

After a two-year hiatus, Tom Harris is back at Emerald Downs where he occupied the booth previously from 2018-2021. He stepped aside following 2021 to spend more time with his family and other business ventures.

But nobody officially retires from Thoroughbred racing. So when Bill Downes announced he was taking the job at Golden Gate Fields, Emerald Downs President Phil Ziegler immediately reached out to Harris. After mulling the offer a few days, Harris accepted the job.

To say Harris is popular with fans and horsemen alike is an understatement. A posting on Facebook announcing his return was bombarded with positive feedback.

“The last couple years have been great with a lot of trips to Arizona for time with the grandkids,” Harris said. “But I can’t tell you how excited I am to return to the booth at Emerald Downs. I think it is one of the nicest racing venues in the sport and I can’t wait to start calling races.”

Emerald Downs’ 29th season features 55 racing days with slightly adjusted post times–Saturdays and Sundays moved up 30 minutes to 1:30 p.m.; Fridays remain 7 p.m. The opening day card shares billing with the 150th Kentucky Derby and is the lone day of racing opening week. The next three weekends (May 11-12, May 18-19, May 25-26) feature Saturday and Sunday cards with Fridays added May 31.

Justin Evans, leading trainer with 49 wins last year, returns with a stable of some 50 horses, while Alex Cruz guns for an unprecedented fifth straight riding title in 2024. A 30-year-old native of Puerto Rico, Cruz is four for four at Emerald Downs, including a 69-win campaign in 2023.

Speaking of Evans, he and Harris share some racing history. It was at defunct Prescott Downs that Harris called Evans’ first career victory on July 27, 1999. The winner, Gaelic Match Son, scored by two lengths in a $2,000 claimer restricted to Arizona-bred colts and geldings. Currently cruising to his fourth straight runaway title at Turf Paradise, Evans has over 2,500 career wins and will be heavily favored to a bag a second straight title at Emerald Downs.

Harris, meanwhile, might be the only announcer to call races at four different Washington racetracks–Emerald Downs, Playfair, Yakima Meadows, and Sun Downs. Including two Oregon tracks, Portland Meadows and Salem, he’s been the voice of six Northwest racetracks.

In addition to horse racing, Harris has broadcast minor league basketball, worked as a television sports director/producer in the Nebraska/Iowa/South Dakota region, and spent nine years as PA announcer for the Chicago Cubs in spring training. Horse racing, however, remains his favorite pastime.

Full-time announcer: Emerald Downs, Albuquerque, Garden State, Great Falls, La Mesa, Manor Downs, Playfair Race Course, Portland Meadows, Prescott Downs, Retama Park, Rillito Park, Salem (Lone Oak Park), Sam Houston, San Juan Downs (Sun Ray Park), Sun Downs, Yakima Meadows, Yellowstone Downs, Zia Park

Emerald Downs Track Announcers

Robert Geller (1996-2015)

Matt Dinerman (2015-2017)

Tom Harris 2018-2021, 2024

Bill Downes 2022-2023