In honor of Tom Durkin’s retirement from race calling on August 31, we are taking a look back at 40 of his most memorable calls–one for each day of the 2014 Saratoga meet.
In the summer of 1999, a major showdown loomed between two of the best older horses in the country. Behrens was the winner of the Gulfstream Park Handicap, the Oaklawn Handicap, the Suburban and the MassCap (defeating Real Quiet). Meanwhile, Victory Gallop had one an allowance race at Gulfstream Park, traveled to Dubai and placed third in the Dubai World Cup, then won the Stephen Foster Handicap by open lengths, posting a Beyer speed figure of 118 in the process.
That set the stage for an epic showdown between the four year old Victory Gallop and the five year old Behrens in the 1999 Whitney Handicap. The showdown with Behrens promised to be just the opening salvo in what would become racing’s premier rivalry. The showdown did not disappoint. Behrens made a sustained move for the lead around the far turn, going five wide to get in front as the field hit the top of the lane. Meanwhile, Victory Gallop was making his patented breathtaking surge from the back of the pack and by the sixteenth pole, he was at Behrens’ throat latch. Victory Gallop put a nose in front, Behrens fought back, and they battled one another right to the wire in a thrilling renewal of the Whitney Stakes. To this day, it remains this Thorobro’s favorite race. Unfortunately, it would be Victory Gallop’s swan song, as he came out of the race with a torn suspensory and was retired.
The race wouldn’t have nearly the same place in my memory, however, were it not for Tom Durkin’s call. As usual, the set up, the description and the culmination of the epic battle between two great thoroughbreds was perfectly stated, ending with Tom Durkin’s exclamation “What a thriller!”
Enjoy one of the great races in Saratoga history in today’s installment of “40 Days of Durkin” [also, it does not appear that there is a better version of the video of this race on YouTube -- there should be]: