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.
The Sport of Kings boasts numerous iconic moments, such as Ron Turcotte gazing back 31 lengths, searching for any other horses in the same area code; Carl Nafzger describing Unbridled’s 1990 Kentucky Derby win for 90 year old owner Frances Geneter; and Chris Antley, kneeling on the Belmont dirt, clutching Charismatic’s leg, just moments after a disappointing Triple Crown loss.
Equally deserving of inclusion on this list, in our opinion, is the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Dubbed the Midnight Classic, it was held in the rain and under complete darkness beneath Churchill Downs’ fabled twin spires. Flashbulbs were popping as the horses ran into the night. In the end, Alysheba, literally and figuratively, emerged from the darkness and ran into the national spotlight, crossing the wire victorious.
Of course, in addition to this dramatic backdrop, there was Tom Durkin, who provided the vivid narrative for yet another iconic racing moment.
Alysheba entered the 1988 Breeder’s Cup Classic as the winner of the 1987 Kentucky Derby and tough luck runner up of the 1987 Classic (more on that race soon). He had already reeled off 5 Grade 1 victories during his four year old campaign and looked to clinch horse of the year honors. The betting public made him a heavy 3/2 favorite. The victory was far from easy. Alysheba, piloted for the 16th consecutive time by Chris McCarron, assumed the lead halfway through the stretch, but around the 1/8th pole, it appeared as though Seeking the Gold (this Thorobro’s first ever horse crush-I was 6 years old) and Pat Day had Alysheba measured.
“Alysheba with a short lead. He’s unyielding! Seeking the Gold, a final move as they come to the wire! And…Alysheba, America’s horse, has done it!”
“Alysheba wins the world’s richest horse race, and he’s now the world’s richest horse.”
It was a surreal moment, nearly impossible to reduce to words; unless, of course, you’re the greatest race caller of our generation.