Dec 19, 2014
Award of Merit goes to Tom Durkin
By: SPORTS NETWORK
Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Former New York track announcer Tom Durkin will be presented with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in thoroughbred racing. The Eclipse Awards are voted on by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
The 64-year-old Durkin retired on Aug. 30 at Saratoga Race Course after a 43- year-career. He will be presented with the 39th Award of Merit at the 44th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park.
"This is quite an honor and quite a surprise," said Durkin upon learning the news. "The award has never been given to a track announcer before, and to be singled out when you consider all of the great announcers who preceded me like Fred Capossela, Joe Hernandez, Chick Anderson and Dave Johnson, this is quite a distinction. Getting my first job calling races at Florida Downs was a dream come true, but I never imagined my career would take me where it did. A lot of people took a lot of chances to hire a guy named Tom Who? I have them to thank and anybody whoever bet two bucks."
Durkin, a native of Chicago, began his announcing career in 1971 at Florida Downs, now Tampa Bay Downs. He also worked at Balmoral, Quad Cities and Cahokia Downs and called harness races at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.
"I never really wanted to be anything else," Durkin recalled. "I was just a kid on the west side of Chicago. And it wasn't the least thing practical. It turned out far more than practical. How many people go to a job they really like?"
He was hired to call races at Hialeah and in 1984 was engaged by NBC Sports to call the first Breeders' Cup.
"That first Breeders' Cup was surreal," Durkin recalled of the 1984 inaugural running at Hollywood Park. "Every race had a minimum of a $1 million purse. But the important thing was that for the first time championships were being decided on the racetrack. It crystalized when Chief's Crown crossed the finish line in the Juvenile and I said 'A champion is crowned, it's Chief's Crown.'"
On Aug. 29, 1990 Durkin became the track announcer for the New York Racing Association tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. Durkin became the television voice of the Triple Crown for 10 years beginning in 2001 after NBC won the rights to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
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