Master of Ceremonies

Tom Durkin

Tom Durkin concluded a 43-year career as a track announcer on Sunday, August 31, 2014 at Saratoga Race Course. He had spent the last 24 years with the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA).

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 Race Course, Quad City Downs and Miles Park before landing the job at famed Hialeah Race Course in 1981.

Durkin was the initial race-caller for the Breeders’ Cup, a job he held from 1984-2005. He was the voice of the Triple Crown beginning in 2001 before stepping down from that role in 2010.

On the last day of August, Durkin was feted with a retirement ceremony in the Saratoga winner’s circle that celebrated the individual whom many have called “the greatest race-caller in the history of racing.”

Durkin was presented with 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. Durkin was also presented The Jockey Club 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.

Transcripts and replays of his most memorable calls are popular destinations on the Internet.

When pressed, Durkin told The New York Times that his favorite call came in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic when the great Cigar was trying to close out an undefeated season of 10 victories and his first Horse of the Year title.

As the Times noted, “The tremor in his voice and his clear admiration for the horse’s grit were giveaways as to how much Durkin loved the sport of horse racing.”

“And here he is: the unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar!” he said as the horse came to the finish line.