And He’s Off: A Track
Legend Calls It a Career
Tom Durkin, the Voice of New York Horse Racing, Retires
By JOE DRAPE AUG. 31, 2014
New York Times
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — It was noon, and Tom Durkin was marking up his program
with pastel colors for a final time, matching a kaleidoscope of jockey silks to
the appropriate horses in each race. His binoculars were within arm’s reach, as
was the coat hanger with a makeshift clipboard that holds his program and hangs
around his neck as the thoroughbreds he describes make their way around the
No matter how crude or simple, these are instruments of a track announcer, and
over the last 43 years, no one has coaxed a more beautiful symphony from them
than Durkin. In his hands, they are transformed into a Stradivarius violin, and
a two-minute horse race becomes a deeply felt movement of sweeping emotion and
Durkin, 63, has lent his mellifluous baritone voice and his vivid imagination to
more than 80,000 races run at county fairs in Wisconsin and harness tracks in
Illinois, as well as to the most famous race in America, the Kentucky Derby. For
the last 25 years, he has been not only the voice of New York racing, but on
telecasts of the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races, he has provided the
real-time oral history of modern thoroughbred racing.
On Sunday, after the 10th race here at the oldest racetrack in the United
States, Durkin walked out of the cramped, splintered crow’s nest that is his
office and into the uncertain life of a retiree. His last call of the 123rd
running of the Spinaway Stakes was, of course, a beauty, mustering all his
showmanship to brighten a bittersweet afternoon punctuated by showers.
Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau:
In January 1946, the
Racing Protective Bureau (TRPB) was incorporated as a private
investigative agency whose principal mission was to address
issues of integrity and security in the Thoroughbred horse
racing industry. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the TRA, TRPB
represents a unified effort by TRA-member racetrack associations
to maintain high standards, protect the legitimate business
interests and integrity of the sport, and foster and maintain
Fred Russell-Grantland Rice TRA Sports Writing Scholarship
The Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship,
begun in 1956, originally was named in honor of the late
Grantland Rice, a Vanderbilt alumnus and one of the best known
sports writers of the 20th century. In 1986, the name was
changed to also honor the late Fred Russell, another Vanderbilt
alumnus who helped guide the scholarship and its recipients. A
$500,000 grant was made on behalf of the TRA in 1986 to ensure
the future of this valuable stipend.
here for a list of previous winners.
The scholarship, co-sponsored by Vanderbilt, is awarded annually
to an entering freshman at Vanderbilt who plans a career in
sports journalism. In order to apply, high school seniors must
apply for admission and complete the online Cornelius Vanderbilt
scholarship application. Contact the Office of Student Financial
Aid and Undergraduate Scholarships, Vanderbilt University, 2309
West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203-1721; (615)322-3591 or
is the race data provider for the
Thoroughbred racing industry in North America, charting every
Thoroughbred race run in the United States and Canada and
disseminating the information throughout the vast international
network of simulcast wagering.
Subsidiaries of the TRA and The Jockey Club formed Equibase in a
1990 partnership to accumulate the racing data necessary for the
unfettered growth of simulcast wagering. Prior to that time, the
Daily Racing Form had been the sole collector of chart data and
the dissemination of past performance information.
Recognizing the broadest possible availability of race data in
daily racing programs was integral to the growth of simulcasting
revenues for the tracks, the TRA found The Jockey Club a capable
and eager partner in undertaking the technological and
logistical issues association with building a data information
With the advent of the internet to general consumer use in the
mid-Nineties, Equibase quickly found itself well-positioned to
enter and serve the fast-growing world of electronic commerce.
Equibase is the sole owner of TrackMaster, whose line of
direct-to-consumer products include a wide variety of
handicapping and selection tools for all types of bettors.
Click here for a listing of
Equibase officers and management committee.
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