Tom Durkin: Often Imitated, Never Duplicated
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, June 22, 2014---Allegiance to present day race callers very often is a matter of taste, like appreciating a fine wine, a movie, favorite athlete, etc., etc.
Consequently, it follows that provincialism plays a huge role in formulating those preferences, just as one would for a favorite horse or jockey: Seabiscuit or War Admiral; Shoemaker or Arcaro; Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra?
And, so, when it comes to con the world of contemporary race callers, the majority of racing fans are aligned in two camps: Denman or Durkin?
Personally, it’s impossible for me to remain neutral. I, like so many others who have crossed paths with Tom Durkin during his 43-year career, consider him a cherished friend.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t strive for objectivity.
I have not listened to Denman’s calls nearly as many times as I’ve heard Durkin’s. But I can’t imagine, even if the coasts were reversed, I would remember as many of Trevor's calls as I would Tom’s.
Twenty-four Breeders’ Cups and 11 Triple Crowns has given Durkin far more opportunities to voice racing’s most memorable events, and he has had more than his share of “moving like a tremendous machine” moments:
There was Easy Goer and Sunday Silence “in a racing epic,” the Real Quiet-Victory Gallop Belmont photo: “a picture is worth a thousand words, this photo is worth five million dollars; history... in the waiting.”
And, of course, Smarty Jones’ crushing Triple Crown bid, marked by Durkin’s diminishing crescendo as he informed 120,000 fans “Birdstone wins the Belmont Stakes.”
The Case for a Lower Case triple crown
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, June 18, 2014—I was happy to see the other day that Steve Haskin of the Bloodhorse suggested that the Triple Crown for Fillies—oops, make that lower case triple crown, insisted the late, great Joe Hirsch—for Fillies be revived.
Perhaps this is an idea whose time has come. Again.
Now before anyone says it won’t have a smidgeon of the impact that the Upper Case version does, we are already aware. But that’s not the point, nor should it be.
This triad would be for thoroughbred racing fans that will care, and each race of the series could a possible anchor leg of an All-Stakes Pick 4, even if the events are overnighters with a purse of $100,000. Hopefully, it would get more support than that.
One of my fondest memories was of Mom’s Command winning the mile and a half Coaching Club American Oaks after having taken the Acorn and Mother Goose previously.
Even though she dominated her generation, not many believed she would go that far, but her class prevailed.
It was a real family affair as the Hall of Fame filly was owned by Peter Fuller and ridden by his daughter, Abigail. Fuller was a driving force behind the creation of a racing circuit in New England, once a hot-bed of thoroughbred racing and still home to passionate fans and horseplayers.
Then, of course, there was the great Davona Dale, another Hall of Famer that was so good she won two filly triple crowns, the older traditional version run at Churchill, Pimlico and Belmont, and the same NYRA version won by Mom’s Command.
If there were one this year, it might have caught on nationally what with Kentucky Oaks winning Untapable reaching second in the NTRA three-year-old poll, now third behind Belmont Stakes winning Tonalist.
Many believe her to be the most talented sophomore in America. If not, she certainly has run her way into the conversation.
If a filly triple crown were to be resurrected, wouldn’t a national version with sensible spacing, preferably at the Upper Case tracks, be that be something worth seeing?
But why stop there? Why not a three race series for all divisions?