The illustrious career of longtime track announcer Tom Durkin will be celebrated with two days in his honor at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, the New York Racing Association announced.
The celebration will begin on Sunday with a special winner's circle ceremony honoring the accomplishments of Durkin's legendary career following his final race call at Saratoga in the Spinaway Stakes. The call will bring Durkin's 43-year career to a close.
"Tom Durkin is one of the greatest race callers in history and we are fortunate to have had him with us here in New York for so many years. It is truly fitting to see Tom take his final bow in Saratoga, a place that he loves and where he is truly beloved," said Chris Kay, the NYRA's chief executive officer and president. "We encourage racing fans to join us as we celebrate Tom's storied career and wish him the best with a send-off fitting of the affection and admiration felt by fans for this unique, poetic, and unparalleled storyteller."
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen will issue a citywide proclamation that will declare Sunday to be "Tom Durkin Day" throughout the city of Saratoga Springs. The proclamation, in part, reads: "For Saratoga race fans, his voice has been a familiar and reassuring presence, one of the sounds of a Saratoga summer. His warmth and generosity have won him great admiration in our city, and many Saratogians are proud to consider him a friend."
"I want to thank the tens of thousands of dedicated people, from the grooms to the jockeys to the trainers and owners, that help put on this exciting show, remembering, as ever, it is all about these magnificent animals," said Durkin. "I was fortunate enough to have described the finished product. Most of all, I must thank the people that make everything possible -- the racing fan. Thank you again from one lucky announcer."
The celebration will continue on closing day Monday, when Durkin returns to Saratoga to greet fans, sign autographs and take pictures in the backyard beginning at noon.
Classic race calls made by Durkin during his long career will be showcased on the video boards between races on both Sunday and Monday.
Born in Chicago, Durkin 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.
Three years later, he was hired as the announcer for the annual Breeders' Cup, a job he held until 2005, and gained further fame calling the Triple Crown for a decade beginning in 2001. Durkin began his tenure with NYRA in 1990.