The Big A featured at The Big M

Anthony Stabile made his race-calling debut at The Meadowlands last week.

by Debbie Little

It isn’t only young drivers in the spotlight this winter at The Meadowlands.

With so many members of The Big M’s broadcast team in Orlando, FL last weekend for the Dan Patch Awards, Anthony Stabile made his debut in the East Rutherford, NJ, announcer’s booth.

“Anthony did a good job,” said Dave Little of Meadowlands’ TV, who started his race-calling career on half-mile tracks. “Moving from the half-mile track to the mile track is a more difficult transition than if you were doing it the other way around.

“The fact is, on a half-mile track you can see everything very well. I’m certain there are a lot of half-mile track announcers that don’t even use binoculars.”

Stabile, who got his nickname “The Big A” from Hondo, the long-time sports handicapping columnist for the New York Post, has been one of the regular announcers at Yonkers Raceway since January of 2023.

Raised in Queens, NY, Stabile’s love of racing started when his parents took him to Roosevelt Raceway when he was just 3 years old.

Stabile grew up listening to the long-time voice of Yonkers Raceway, Bob Meyer, and by the age of 8 or 9 knew that calling races was his dream job. A dream that never left him.

“[As a teenager], I would watch the OTB [Off-Track Betting] channel and mimic calls,” Stabile said. “And then I would do calls in the St. John’s cafeteria for my friends from the night before. I’d mimic [Tom] Durkin and Bob the most.”

Stabile’s big break in announcing came in 2018 when Aqueduct winter back-up announcer Frank Mirahmadi let him call a race at his namesake “Big A.”

“It was a five-horse field and I still remember the names of the horses,” Stabile said.

Stabile continued to get opportunities to call at Aqueduct from New York Racing Association (NYRA) back-up announcer John Imbriale, and over time, graduated to calling full cards in the winter at Aqueduct.

Stabile said he did some of his best calling in the winter of 2020-21, which was validated by one of his heroes.

“I idolized Tom Durkin my entire life and I got a call from him, maybe on New Year’s Eve 2020,” Stabile said. “He said, ‘I’m very proud of you.’ I still tear up when I think about it. He said, ‘I remember you walking in my booth doing that term paper when you were 13 or 14 years old and you are there now. These last two days you have been absolutely brilliant. Whatever you and John are doing, just keep doing it and if you need anything, you know where I am.’”

At that same time, Stabile was doing TV work for NYRA and when their Fox Show expanded in 2022, it was no longer possible for him to call races at Aqueduct.

In Little’s experience, it’s been easier to find announcers than qualified talent to fill in on The Big M TV show, so it makes sense to him that Stabile would be a more valuable commodity to NYRA on-air than behind the mic. Stabile’s tenure at NYRA concluded in May of last year.

Stabile has also been a co-host on The Meadowlands’ live simulcast show and will be on the set next to Little on March 16 and 30.

In 2020, Stabile called his first race at Yonkers, which started the ball rolling for him on the harness side of announcing.

Growing up a fan of Meyer, Stabile pays homage to “The Bullet” when he calls at Yonkers by using some of Meyer’s recognizable catch phrases, such as “This field is in the hands of the starter,” and “This field is in motion.”

According to Little, The Meadowlands has enough announcers on staff — Ken Warkentin, Jason Settlemoir, Shades Demsky, Scott Warren, as well as Little himself — that they rarely need to bring in someone from the outside, but when that occasion does arise, their freelance announcing depth chart is also stacked with Peter Kleinhans, Mike Bozich, Gabe Prewitt, Michael Carter, and now, Stabile.

The opportunity to call at The Big M would check a box on the bucket list for any announcer, including Stabile, who did not take the moment lightly.

“I was just a little apprehensive for lack of a better term,” Stabile said. “But I felt pretty good once all the announcements were done [prior to the start of the card].”

Little said he was texting with Stabile throughout the night and his first text said, “Have a good night, I’ll be listening (critiquing??!!).”

According to Little, Stabile’s response was, “Critique away, please. No kid gloves either.” To which Little texted “Kid gloves are not my style. I’ll text you later.”

Little said as a race caller, from the stretch to the finish is where you really want to shine and thinks Stabile was not dealt the easiest of cards when you consider that eight of the 14 races were decided by a half-length or less, including one dead heat.

“The momentum didn’t carry them by and you want to give the big call, but it’s also not my booth,” Stabile said. “That’s Ken’s booth and you have to have respect. I’m going to be 47 years old on March 31st and I feel like respect for the game and the tradition is mostly gone.

“I’m going to respect the fact that Ken Warkentin has called races at that place for 32 years. That’s his booth. My job Saturday night was to tell the fans what was happening on the racetrack and protect his booth. That’s all I was trying to do, that’s all you’re supposed to do when somebody invites you into their booth.”