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HRN Original Blog:
A New York State of Racing

Tom Durkin to Retire on August 31

tom durkin
Photo: NYRA

Tom Durkin, who has been the NYRA track announcer since 1990, announced today that he will call his last race at Saratoga Race Course on August 31. Durkin has been announcing races for the past 43 years. During his illustrious career Durkin he was also the announcer for the Breeders’ Cup and the Triple Crown.
 
"I want to thank all of the fans that have been so supportive over the years, my colleagues at NYRA and countless others who have helped me along over four decades," said Durkin, 63. "I thought that 24 years here at NYRA was enough and that 25 might have been too many. It has been an honor and a privilege to have been given the best seat in the house to some of the greatest moments in modern racing history."


Born in Chicago, Durkin studied theatre at St. Norbert College and began calling races at county fairs in Wisconsin in the summer of 1971. In 1975, he moved on to a string of small tracks including Cahokia Downs, Balmoral Race Course, Quad City Downs and Miles Park before landing the job at famed Hialeah Race Course in 1981. Three years later, he was hired as the announcer for the annual Breeders' Cup, a job he held until 2005, and gained further fame calling the Triple Crown for a decade beginning in 2001.


"Tom Durkin is one of the greatest race-callers in history, and we are fortunate to have had him with us here in New York for so many years," said NYRA President and CEO Chris Kay. "The way Tom uses his voice to build to a crescendo is unparalleled, and the words he uses to describe races are pure magic. We are disappointed to see such a storied career finally come to a close, but we are grateful to have had the opportunity to enjoy his race-calling for so long. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life."


Some of Durkin's most memorable calls have come on the NYRA circuit of Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. In 2007, he captured Rags to Riches' historic victory in the Belmont Stakes thusly:


"And at the top of the stretch, a filly is in front at the Belmont! But Curlin is right there with her! These two, in a battle of the sexes in the Belmont Stakes! It is Curlin on the inside! Rags to Riches on the outside! A desperate finish! Rags to Riches and Curlin! They're coming down to the wire! It's going to be very close! And it's going to be...A FILLY IN THE BELMONT! Rags to Riches has beaten Curlin and a hundred years of Belmont history!"
 
 
In the 1998 Belmont Stakes, Durkin brought out every ounce of drama to the nail-biting finish of Real Quiet's failed bid for the Triple Crown:
 
"As they come to the final sixteenth, Kent Desormeaux imploring Real Quiet to hold on! Victory Gallop, a final surge! It's going to be very close! Here's the wire! ... [pause] ... IT'S TOO CLOSE TO CALL! Was it Real Quiet or was it Victory Gallop? A picture is worth a thousand words. This photo is worth FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. OH, NO! History in the waiting, on hold, till we get that photo finish!"
 
 
Durkin’s call of the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which was won by Cigar, is what I consider to be one of the greatest race calls of all time. Every time I hear the final yards of the call I get the chills:
 
“And here he is: The unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar!” 

 
"It's been exciting," said Durkin of his tenure at NYRA. "And just as importantly, it's been fun." 

 

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Older Comments about Tom Durkin to Retire on August 31...

I know it will never happen, but I wish NBC would let Durkin announce the Belmont for their coverage this year. Nothing against Larry Colmus, but if Chrome wins, its Tom's voice I want to hear. I may watch the Belmont on TVG just for this reason.
in your montage will the call when that horse arggggh was racing memorable call
Tom Durkin - Easily the most colorful race commentator ever. Soon, I will create a montage of his many race calls. I understand Tom riding into the sunset after Saratoga, however I'm a little surprised he's retiring before the fall championship meeting at Belmont Park.
I thought about Mirahmadi, too. Heard people mention Dooley.
Who replaces? Mirahmadi is free.
Straight to the Hall of Fame!

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

 

Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

 

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