Durkin announces retirement as NYRA race caller
|Tom Durkin has had a long tenure as a track announcer
throughout the U.S.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Track announcer Tom Durkin, who has been bringing his special brand of
excitement to The New York Racing Association (NYRA) circuit since 1990,
announced Saturday he will call his last race at Saratoga on August 31, bringing
a 43-year career to a close.
"I want to thank all of the fans that have been so supportive over the years,
my colleagues at NYRA and countless others who have helped me along over four
decades," said Durkin, 63. "I thought that 24 years here at NYRA was enough and
that 25 might have been too many. It has been an honor and a privilege to have
been given the best seat in the house to some of the greatest moments in modern
Born in Chicago, Durkin studied theatre at St. Norbert College and began
calling races at county fairs in Wisconsin in the summer of 1971. In 1975, he
moved on to ply his trade at a string of small tracks including Cahokia Downs,
Balmoral Park, Quad City Downs and Miles Park before landing the job at famed
Hialeah Park in 1981. Three years later, he was hired as the announcer for the
annual Breeders' Cup, a job he held until 2005, and gained further fame calling
the Triple Crown for a decade beginning in 2001.
"Tom Durkin is one of the greatest race-callers in history, and we are
fortunate to have had him with us here in New York for so many years," said NYRA
President and CEO Chris Kay, who recalled that his first visit to a racetrack
was at Cahokia Downs, where Durkin was calling the races. "The way Tom uses his
voice to build to a crescendo is unparalleled, and the words he uses to describe
races are pure magic. We are disappointed to see such a storied career finally
come to a close, but we are grateful to have had the opportunity to enjoy his
race-calling for so long. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his
Some of Durkin's most memorable calls have come on the NYRA circuit of
Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. In 2007, he captured Rags to Riches'
historic victory in the Belmont Stakes thusly:
"And at the top of the stretch, a filly is in front at the Belmont! But
Curlin is right there with her! These two, in a battle of the sexes in the
Belmont Stakes! It is Curlin on the inside! Rags to Riches on the outside! A
desperate finish! Rags to Riches and Curlin! They're coming down to the wire!
It's going to be very close! And it's going to be...A FILLY IN THE BELMONT! Rags
to Riches has beaten Curlin and a hundred years of Belmont history!"
In the 1998 Belmont Stakes, Durkin brought out every ounce of drama to the
nail-biting finish of Real Quiet's failed bid for the Triple Crown:
"As they come to the final sixteenth, Kent Desormeaux imploring Real Quiet
to hold on! Victory Gallop, a final surge! It's going to be very close! Here's
the wire! ... (pause) ... IT'S TOO CLOSE TO CALL! Was it Real Quiet or was it
Victory Gallop? A picture is worth a thousand words. This photo is worth FIVE
MILLION DOLLARS. OH, NO! History in the waiting, on hold, till we get that photo
In addition to his flair for the dramatic, Durkin's sense of humor has stood
him in good stead, especially when dealing with quirky names such as the New
York-bred with the pirate-themed name Arrrr. A video of that race, and other
memorable calls by Durkin, can be viewed at
"It's been exciting," said Durkin of his tenure at NYRA. "And just as
importantly, it's been fun."
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