The "Voice of the Hambletonian" will soon become the "Voice of Cal Expo," too.
Gary Seibel, the nation's most recognizable harness racing expert, will take over announcing duties when the trotters and pacers return to Cal Expo on Oct. 5. He'll also serve as host of Cal Expo's simulcast broadcast to outlets nationwide.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back to the sights and sounds of the racetrack," Seibel said in a phone interview from his home outside Las Vegas. "My roots are as an announcer. I've missed being around the horses. This seems like a very good fit for me and I'm really excited."
Seibel, 61, served as track announcer at Florida's Pompano Park for 18 years. Since 1999, he's primarily worked as a broadcaster, including a dozen years on horse racing network TVG. He also hosted ESPN's Breeders Crown coverage for more than a decade.
"We think we have a quality staff, but getting Gary adds to our overall professionalism," said Chris Schick, general manager for Cal Expo meet operator Watch & Wager LLC. "Obviously, he'll elevate our status within the whole harness industry."
Cal Expo, the only harness track west of the Rockies, used five different announcers during its 2013 winter-spring harness meet.
"It's a perfect situation for Gary," Schick said. "He didn't want to move back to the East Coast (to work at another track). He's enormously popular throughout the industry. As our simulcast host, he'll be our ambassador."
Inducted in 2011 to harness racing's Hall of Fame, Seibel saw Sacramento for the first time in May.
"I was really impressed," he said. "Right off the bat, I got positive vibes. I've always liked California; the weather couldn't be better on a daily basis. The night we were out at the track, it couldn't have been more beautiful."
Before his Cal Expo gig, Seibel has another classic to call for CBS Sports. He'll work his 21st Hambletonian on Saturday, live from the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
"It's the biggest stage in the sport," Seibel said. "It feels like a big deal, which is what it's supposed to be."
This $1.2 million edition of harness racing's most famous event returns to its traditional same-day elimination format. Seibel will be busy with four races in one broadcast.
With 23 horses entered, three elimination heats Saturday will determine the Hambletonian final field later that afternoon. The first three finishers from each heat plus the remaining trotter with the highest lifetime earnings advance to the 10-horse final.
"This year, the Hambletonian is really wide open," Seibel said. "It's more of a challenge. You have to prepare for all the horses and any eventuality.
"These are the best stakes colts in the sport, and harness horses were bred for their endurance. By reverting to the old format and same-day eliminations, it showcases just how tough these horses can be."
Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.