08/31/2014 7:32PM

Saratoga bids farewell to Tom Durkin

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tom Durkin was presented with the key to Saratoga during a ceremony in the winner's cirlce following his final race call in Sunday's Spinaway Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Tom Durkin was given a wet and slightly wild send-off Sunday at Saratoga.

After calling Condo Commando’s 13 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Spinaway in the pouring rain “splash-tastic,” Durkin was feted with a retirement ceremony in the Saratoga winner’s circle that celebrated the 43-year career of the greatest race-caller in the history of racing. For the last 24 years, Durkin called the races for the New York Racing Association, which operates Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga.

Appropriately enough, as Durkin descended the staircase from his booth high atop the track to the winner’s circle, the rain stopped and the skies brightened just in time for the ceremony in which Durkin was given a vintage bottle of Italian wine, a check of unknown value for a trip to Italy, and the key to the city of Saratoga, by members of NYRA’s Board of Directors.

Also, NYRA president and CEO Chris Kay announced that on opening day of the 2015 Saratoga meet the track would unveil the Tom Durkin Replay Center. The NYRA jockey colony presented Durkin with a framed saddle towel with the misspelled inscription “Your the Man.”

Durkin was also presented the Jockey Club Gold Medal for exceptional contributions to the racing industry.

The New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association presented Durkin with a photo of his booth and a view of the Saratoga track.

In a brief speech at the end of the ceremony, Durkin thanked “the one person completely and entirely responsible for this wonderful life I’ve had the privilege to live in horse racing … whether they were at a picnic table in the backyard, sitting in the box seats, leaning over a rail in upper stretch or at an OTB in Syracuse.”

Durkin then got choked up, before saying, “That person is you, the racing fan, the horseplayer. Thank you. Thank you for it all, thank you for everything.”

Durkin’s last words to the crowd, which alternately chanted “Tom-my Dur-kin” and “One More Year,” were “Long live horse racing, long live Saratoga.”

Durkin punched the air with his right hand before getting in the back of a pick-up truck and shooting T-shirts to the crowed as he went up the stretch while Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, the composer’s last symphony, blared over the loudspeakers.

Durkin is scheduled to be in the backyard at Saratoga on Monday, closing day, mingling with the fans, taking pictures and telling stories.

 

RunningDog More than 1 year ago
Never be one better , and thats a sure thing. Hope is still calls a few for old times sake down the road.
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
Super classy guy and a stellar talent. For me Mr. Durkin is one of the most creative and descriptive race callers of all time. Also, give him credit for knowing when to say when.
Bryan Langlois More than 1 year ago
Let all of those he thanked so much in his speech have our voices heard in our desire to see this man enshrined with the other greats in the Hall of Fame. Please sign and share this petition: www.ipetitions.com/petition/put-tom-durkin-in-the-hall-of-fame
Kitty Kladstrup More than 1 year ago
Well, besides the people, " whether they were at a picnic table in the backyard, sitting in the box seats, leaning over a rail in upper stretch or at an OTB in Syracuse.” your article forgot to mention his words, "Or, at a computer in California." All of us at a computer in California mattered to Tom--for that we are grateful, too. Sorry you failed to add us accurately to his quote. It's all right, we heard him loud and clear. Thank you Tommy Durkin, for the storied memories!!!
JeanK More than 1 year ago
When the soul is young, the voice never grows old. Thank you Tom and may the road rise to meet you.
Steven Davidowitz More than 1 year ago
Sorry I could not be there.. Personal issues But as just about everyone has said, Tom Durkin deserves all the accolades he's been receiving, just as he deserves a wonderful retirement, leaving the mike at the top of his game. Professionally, I often wonder why race callers do not have an Eclipse Award category. Frankly, as I wrote him personally, I still think the two best Eclipse Award votes I have ever made were for Tom in 1988 and 1998 - - votes that were specifically tendered to cite and reward his JOURNALISTIC EXCELLENCE - for the extraordinary race-calls he made. These included the '88 BC Distaff, the '88 BC Mile and the '88 BC Classic, as well as a long list of great calls in 1998, including the Victory Gallop-Real Quiet - Belmont Stakes. Seemed to me at the time, Tom Durkin's exceedingly accurate, sensitive, yet dramatic renderings of what happened on the track in those instances, were the best pieces of reporting I saw or heard in those two years. And of course, there were many to choose from in every year he has provided his insights while so many races unfolded for the benefit of so many owners, trainers and fans. All of us who have been treated to his work, know that a true artist is leaving the scene. . .Steve Davidowitz
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Steve, Just as your many books and articles have been so insightful, your remarks in this email are spot on. As I've enjoyed your writings, so have I enjoyed Tom's race calls.
Dennis Ho More than 1 year ago
Hearing Durkin's final call was special especially calling my winning exacta was a added bonus.Thanks for the memories Tom.
MIKE MOBLEY More than 1 year ago
THE GREATEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
He was fun to listen to and loved his commercials he did on TVG. Was great for the game. Sad to see em go.
Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
Great exit. You deserve it. Thank you