LAUREL -- Milo Perrins, due to leave Maryland racing on Friday for a circuit in New Mexico, went out in a unique style, three days early.
The man whose trademark was to say a first-time winner was a "maiden no more" will be replaced earlier than expected by Jehan Malherbe, who is due in tomorrow from South Africa.
Apparently too ill to work, Perrins called the first two races at Laurel Race Course, then left the track with no explanation. He had worked at Pimlico and Laurel race courses since July 1989.
Perrins has no phone and could not be reached at his home in Columbia.
But he showed a touch of humor. In a soft voice hardly understandable, Perrins told the crowd: "Ladies and gentlemen, we're going now to Keeneland. There will be a race, but I won't call it." Then he flipped the microphone switch off, walked out and left the grounds before the next race.
His reference to Keeneland brought laughter to insiders who know that the track outside Lexington, Ky., doesn't have an announcer. Management there prefers to let the customers determine where their choice is during a race.
Some customers booed when no one called the race. Muggins Feldman, longtime publicist at Bowie, recalled yesterday that Maryland was the first state to use track announcers. "Clem McCarthy first appeared at Bowie in the early late 1920s or early 1930s to tell the fans where their selections were during the running of a race," he said. "It caught on fast."
After Perrins left yesterday, fans began to grumble and boo. Track publicist Jeffrey Weissman took the microphone to announce that the race was official, then he reported a claim.
Then Laurel general manager Jim Mango ordered trainer Jack Salter paged from the crowd. When Perrins was injured last summer and missed several days, Salter filled in as the caller. But Salter appeared with a patch over one eye.
Mango then drafted Doug Vair, Baltimore radio sportscaster who serves as a handicapper on the closed-circuit video monitors.
Mango said: "Milo got ill. Evidently he chose to leave the track. We're happy to have Doug there calling the races."
Track president Joe De Francis told Vair: "Just take it easy. Don't do anything fancy. Just study the numbers and names and go slowly. You've got a good voice."
Vair followed orders and performed acceptably for De Francis. "He sounds better than --- ---," De Francis said, referring to a track announcer from another racing area.
De Francis took the emergency in good nature. "I called a couple of races at Freestate [Raceway]," he said, "and it would be fun to call the races here, but this is a serious matter."
De Francis said Malherbe is expected to arrive in time for the card tomorrow but added, "We'll probably get the announcer from Delaware Park [John Curran] to be here just in case Malherbe's plane is late."
Vair said he was nervous for the first race. "I've ad-libbed before two million people [on television] at Texas Stadium," he said. "But my binoculars were shaking. By the fourth race, I was OK."