Anyone who has watched horse racing, avidly or casually, over the last 30 years associates one voice with the sport more than any other: Tom Durkin. He announced this past wekeend that he will retire after 43 years calling races, the last 24 of those years as the primary announcer for the New York Racing Association. His last race at the Saratoga Race Course will be August 31.
In my opinion, Durkin is the greatest racecaller of my lifetime and there's really no one even close. He is fundamentally sound, giving the fan accurate descriptions of the horses and their positions while showing his great ability to know which horses are ready to move forward while others are "stopping badly," to borrow a favorite Durkin phrase.
Most importantly, Durkin shows a true flair for the dramatic, raising his game when the stakes are highest.
Here are clips from five of his greatest calls from his time as the voice of NYRA, as well as horse racing's Breeders' Cup...
#5 "There is cause for Concern" in the 1994 Travers
One of the most thrilling editions of Saratoga's signature race
#4 Rachel Alexandra raises the rafters at the Spa
It's hard to believe the crowd at Saratoga has ever been louder than at the finish of the 2009 Woodward Stakes.
#3 Real Quiet falls just short in bid to win Triple Crown
Durkin has never called a Triple Crown winner (it hasn't happened since 1978). He never got closer than this.
#2 Personal Ensign finishes career undefeated in 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff
How he knew the great Personal Ensign won the race, no one will ever know
#1 "The two Derby winners hit the wire together"
The winners of the 1986 and 1987 Kentucky Derby stage a thriller in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Robert Lee is the voice of Siena basketball and an avid horse racing fan.
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