Over the past six weeks we have shared with you 39 of Tom Durkin’s greatest race calls. Today, on our 40th and final day, we leave you with Tom’s final race call from yesterday. We’ve also each tried our best, although a nearly impossible assignment, to summarize the impact Tom has had on us as fans and on the sport we love.
Thanks to everyone for following us on this 40 day journey. We hope you had as much fun recalling these moments as we had putting this together.
I grew up in Saratoga. As a result, I grew up with horse racing. For many years, I didn’t know that there were any other race callers other than Tom Durkin. When I watched the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup on TV, it was Tom Durkin. When I went to the races at Saratoga, it was Tom Durkin. When I occasionally tuned in for the Jockey Club Gold Cup or Wood Memorial, it was Tom Durkin. Eventually I became a bigger fan and discovered that there were indeed other people that called races at other tracks. But I quickly learned that none of them were as good as Tom Durkin. None of them combined his humor, panache, vocabulary and feel for the moment. Over the past Saratoga meet we have looked back at 40 of some of Tom Durkin’s most memorable calls. That project has brought back some great memories for me. The soundtrack to some of my fondest racetrack memories will be Tom Durkin’s voice. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
How does one use words to do justice to Tom Durkin? He in fact is a wordsmith himself with a tremendous vocabulary. The only word that can do truly describe what he means to his profession and the sport of horse racing is the ultimate adjective: “the best”. He is without a doubt the best race caller of all-time, and there will never be another like him. In a sport where greatness and best are often been a subject of debate (see Secretariat v. Man O’War v. Seattle Slew v. Citation), Tom Durkin has no competitors. There is no one with such an impressive vocabulary, an eye for the field, a dramatic flair for great efforts and an emotional voice that could capture the gravity of any moment by building to a crescendo at the finish line. Aside from his race calling, he also loves this sport. When he was the key note speaker at the hall of fame induction ceremony in 2006 his speech was like a locker room pump up from a coach. It inspired me and reminded me of the greatness of this game. I just want to thank Tom for all that he has done for this game. He has xr45t inspired me and provided the soundtrack to all of my favorite moments at the races. You are the best Tom, it won’t be the same without you.
It’s an impossible task to summarize Tom Durkin’s career, calls and contributions in a paragraph, or even a chapter in a novel (we have 39 other posts which prove that). I have too many memories to list. But my favorite Durkin moment was not a race call, it was not even at a race track. As mentioned above, we had the honor of listening to Durkin’s keynote address at the 2006 Hall of Fame induction in Saratoga. In his address Durkin scoffed at the notion that the Sport of Kings was a dying sport. Instead, he declared:
“If you are one of those sentimentalists who long for the Good Old Days, well, welcome to them. Because for my money, these are the Good Old Days….Stop wringing your hands, and maybe it will free up your arms so you can embrace the exciting present that is Thoroughbred racing today.”
His address was full of optimism and praise for horse racing. As I exited the sales pavilion that morning, I had never been prouder and more excited to be a horse racing fan. Even today, when I’m tempted to shake my head or otherwise question that future of our beloved sport, I recall Durkin’s words and continue to embrace the “exciting present” which racing offers. Thank you Tom for all you have done. While your career as a race caller may be over, I have no doubt you will continue to be an ambassador to the sport and an inspiration to its fans.
From all of us Thorobros, thanks, Tom.