11/14/2014 12:16PM

Durkin honored with Big Sport of Turfdom award

Barbara D. Livingston
Tom Durkin, retiring after 43 years in the sport, has been voted the recipient of the Big Sport of Turfdom award by the Turf Publicists of America.

Tom Durkin received another retirement gift Friday.

Durkin, who retired from race-calling earlier this year after 43 years in the business, was voted the recipient of this year’s Big Sport of Turfdom award by the Turf Publicists of America. The annual honor is bestowed upon those who enhance coverage of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and Thoroughbred racing publicists.

Durkin is the first track announcer to receive the Big Sport of Turfdom, which has been awarded annually since 1966.

Durkin, 63, joins a list of winners that includes jockeys Mike Smith, Pat Day, Laffit Pincay Jr., Chris McCarron, Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Eddie Arcaro, and last year’s winner, Gary Stevens. Trainers Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, and Jack Van Berg also won this award, as did author Laura Hillenbrand, broadcaster Jim McKay, and actors Tim Conway and Jack Klugman, individuals who may not be involved in the day-to-day aspect of Thoroughbred racing but made significant contributions to the sport.

“I am delighted to win this award and join the ranks of some of the people I’ve admired and respected all of my professional life,” Durkin said in a press release. “It is thrilling to me to be mentioned in the same sentence as some of those folks.”

Durkin, who began his career as a chart-caller for Daily Racing Form, called his final race Aug. 31 at Saratoga. As the voice of the Breeders’ Cup from 1984 through 2005, the Triple Crown from 2001-2010, and the New York Racing Association since 1990,  Durkin has provided the soundtrack for most of Thoroughbred racing’s biggest moments over the last quarter-century.

Though he never called a Triple Crown winner, he called eight failed bids, including the 1998 Belmont, in which Real Quiet was nosed out by Victory Gallop and about which Durkin declared: “A picture is worth a thousand words. This photo is worth $5 million dollars. Oh, no! History in the waiting!”

Durkin sat for countless interviews in the months leading up to his retirement, and a report on his historic send-off at Saratoga made the front page of The New York Times.

“For so many of us, our memories of racing’s greatest moments are inextricably linked with Tom’s voice,” said Turf Publicists of America President Mandy Minger, who is vice president of marketing for DRF. “This award recognizes not only his contributions as an announcer but as an ambassador of the sport. Tributes to his career permeated the mainstream media this year, capturing the class and generosity of a man who represents the best of our sport.”

The Big Sport of Turfdom will be presented Dec. 11 at the Race Track Industry Program Awards luncheon, emceed by Chris Lincoln. It is part of the 2014 Symposium on Racing & Gaming presented by the University of Arizona at the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa in Tucson, Ariz. The Turf Publicists of America consists of approximately 150 publicity and marketing personnel from racetracks and racing organizations around the country.