40 Days of Durkin: Sunday August 31, 2014

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.

This list has long been in contemplation. What race-call do we use to mark, and celebrate the greatness that is Tom Durkin on his final day?

To use the memorable words of Tom Durkin, we knew “it’s going to be very close.” It could have been Rachel’s Woodward, You v. Carson Hollow in the Test, Hidden Lake in the Go For Wand, Cigar’s Breeders Cup Classic or Alysheba v. Ferdinand.

But in the end we came to a call that tempted history. A Triple Crown on the line, a field of great horses and a stretch drive that culminated in photo finish.

The 1998 Belmont was the closest margin of victory for any of Tom Durkin’s almost Triple Crowns. Real Quiet gained the lead at the top of the stretch, the whip was out. Durkin knew history was in the balance. “20 Years in the waiting, one furlong to go!”

Real Quiet had a lead by open lengths, but he was laboring. Durkin also saw Real Quiet’s biggest rival, Victory Gallop, starting his patented late stretch charge.  He came to Real Quiet just before the wire, and “it’s going to be very close” as the camera flashed.

Tom understood the gravity of the moment, financially and historically: “A picture is worth a thousand words, this photo is worth a $5 million. Oh no! History in the waiting, on hold, til we get that photo finish.”

Victory Gallop, as most of us know, stopped Real Quiet’s run for the Triple Crown. But in the process, it gave us one of Durkin’s greatest calls; a call the epitomizes a career worth much more than $5 million to race fans who listened to him.

Thank you Tom. You are the best, there will never be another with your flair for the dramatic, vocabulary or love for the sport.

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