40 Days of Durkin: Friday, July 25, 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.

Racing has seen many ideas aimed at increasing the visibility and popularity of the sport come and go over the years.  We almost exclusively focus on the bad, stupid or downright silly ones.  One idea that has worked fantastically is the Breeders’ Cup.  Proposed by John Gaines at the awards luncheon during the 1982 Kentucky Derby Festival, the Breeders’ Cup has grown into the second or third biggest event on the racing calendar (depending on whether or not there is a Triple Crown on the line at the Belmont).

Prior to the Inaugural Breeders’ Cup in 1984, they needed a track announcer.  In what turned out to be a stroke of genius, they passed over more established candidates and bigger names to hire Tom Durkin, who had been calling the races at Hialeah and other tracks like Florida Downs  and Balmoral Park.  For the next 21 years, Tom Durkin was the TV voice of the Breeders’ Cup.

Today, 40 Days of Durkin looks back at the first Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which Wild Again outdueled “the big horse” Slew O’Gold and Gate Dancer in an epic race that set the tone for the future of the Breeders’ Cup.

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40 Days of Durkin: Thursday July 24, 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.

It was July 4, 2008.  The fourth race at Belmont Park.  Perhaps Tom was excited about the holiday, or perhaps he had recently seen “The Sound of Music.”  Either way, a horse was entered named Doremifasollatido, and the greatest racing announcer of all time was not about to miss the opportunity.

Tom Durkin didn’t grow up around the racetrack — in fact, he’s allergic to horses.  He became interested in the art of race calling because of Chicago track announcer Phil Georgeff.  In fact, in the foreword to Georgeff’s autobiography, “And They’re Off,”  Tom Durkin wrote “When I grew up, I wanted to be Phil Georgeff.”

Prior to following in Georgeff’s footsteps, however, Tom Durkin studied drama at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin.  I am not sure whether he took any singing classes as part of his coursework at St. Norbert, but if he did, it was of great use to him as he described Doremifasollatido drawing away on Independence Day:

Durkin Sings Home a Winner

 

 

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40 Days of Durkin: Wednesday, July 23

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 spirit of today’s post position draw for Saturday’s jockey foot race, organized by NYRA as part of its participation in a national day of awareness for the PDJF, we bring to you rare footage of the last jockey foot race held at Saratoga in 1995. 

Many have said Durkin could announce anything and make it interesting. This video may be proof.  So many great lines:

“The morning line favorite has to be Frankie Lovato Jr. in post 13 with the addition of mud caulks.”

“And in red there is our outrider, Jean Luc Samyn. They’re going all of about 100 yards”

“And there they go, Bailey fell on his face out of the gate, on the far outside here comes Shane Sellers.”

and our favorite:  “We just received a call, the inquiry sign is on, an inquiry has been posted…into the entire proceedings.”

The race starts at the two minute mark.

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40 Days of Durkin–Monday, July 21

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 honor of Monday–a foggy day for most as they dust off the weekend cobwebs and march into work–we’re recalling Durkin’s infamous Aqueduct fog call from 2009.

Although there was no dramatic stretch duel and he incorrectly identified the leader at the top of the turn, this call features some textbook Durkin one-liners such as:

“Nothing more beautiful.  Whooo, they’re going fast too.  21 and 1 for the opening quarter.  Wish I could see them.” and

“And Shotgun Holiday was third in a magnificently run event.”

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40 Days of Durkin–Sunday, July 20

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 honor of today’s Coaching Club American Oaks, we take a look back at the 2011 edition, which featured a small but star studded field including Plum Pretty, It’s Tricky, Joyful Victory, and Royal Delta.  Although all three Thorobros were all in attendance at Saratoga that day, I did not recall this being such a good stretch battle between Plum Pretty and It’s Tricky. In fairness, it was this Thorbro’s bachelor party and the effects of an aggressive Friday night at Gaffney’s had spilled over to Saturday.

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40 Days of Durkin–Saturday, July 19

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.

“He’s 88 to 1!!!!”

Although he may have been slightly delayed on calling Slambino’s monster run down the lane (tough to blame him though given the unbelievable acceleration in the final sixteenth), Durkin more than salvaged the call with an epic declaration after they crossed the wire.

Here’s to an upset of Slambino-type proportions today at the Spa!

 

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40 Days of Durkin–Friday, July 18

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 Saratoga meet.

We begin with what Durkin has described as his most memorable Travers.  As Durkin said in a Q and A with DRF in 2011:

“One of the great performances I think I’ve ever seen from any horse was Holy Bull. Wayne Lukas sent out Commanche Trail as a rabbit for Tabasco Cat, and they went in 22 and change. Holy Bull was never meant to be a mile-and-a-quarter horse. By Great Above, out of Sharon Brown? Come on. People thought since he didn’t win the Derby he wasn’t a mile-and-a-quarter horse, and then he takes that punishment, and then here comes Concern, who goes on and wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Holy Bull beat him. That was one of the great Travers ever.”

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Throwback Thursday: Spring/Summer 2002 – When I knew it was it was all over

This is the year I really got hooked on horse racing for good. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it before then. I attended my first Travers at 7, to see Chris McCarron win on Deputy Commander in 1996. I cried the year before because my dad wouldn’t take me to see Thunder Gulch. I was in the Gulfstream Park Turf Club at age 6 weeks. Belmont Park, the day before the Belmont at 5. My 10th birthday present was a trip to the Breeders Cup in 1999 to see Cat Thief upset the star studded field in the Classic. I liked horseracing well enough by 2002. But that year really cemented it in my soul.

Continue reading Throwback Thursday: Spring/Summer 2002 – When I knew it was it was all over

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Is California Chrome the Perfect Horse?

Is California Chrome the Perfect Triple Crown Winner for Racing?

Horse racing followers have been waiting 36 years for a Triple Crown winner. As has been discussed in these pages before, the sport has been in a steady popularity decline over those three-plus decades. When discussing events which could pull racing out of its doldrums, one thing comes up nearly universally – a Triple Crown winner. But not all Triple Crown winners are created equal. For racing, it would take a very extraordinary horse to win the Triple Crown and subsequently maintain the star power required to single-horsedly lift the sport to a higher sustained level of popularity. Is California Chrome that horse?

Continue reading Is California Chrome the Perfect Horse?

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Throwback Thursday: Belmonts Past – How to make Friends at the Belmont

One of the best things about going to the races, other than the potential to walk away with a bag of cash, is the ability to meet and talk to new friends. Although this is the sport of kings, there are people from all walks of life at the track, especially on a big day like Belmont Stakes Day. Some of these people you want to make friends with, others you want to stay away from and others you might just want to stand around, to get the benefits of friendship without the burdens. I have a real-life example of each of these people from previous Belmont Days, and advice about how to make the right call about your contact with them. Continue reading Throwback Thursday: Belmonts Past – How to make Friends at the Belmont

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Critical analysis of the business, marketing, legal, and leadership aspects of the Sport of Kings